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Copyright 1923 Columbia University Press 
First published by The Macmillan Company 1923 

ISBN 0-231-08794-2 
Manufactured in the United States of America 
10 9 8 7 



Preface • -.r. , ix 

Abbreviations xiii 

Designation of Manuscripts xv 

List of Works Frequently Cited by Author and Date of 

Publication or Brief Title xvii 


I. Introduction i 


Foreword 39 

2. Pliny's Natural History 41 

I, Its Place in the History of Science 42 

11. Its Experimental Tendency 53 

HI. Pliny's Account of Magic 58 

IV. The Science of the Magi 64 

V. Pliny's Magical Science 72 

3. Seneca and Ptolemy: Natural Divination and As- 

trology 100 

4. Galen 117 

I. The Man and His Times 119 

II. His Medicine and Experimental Science . . . 139 

HI. His Attitude Tovi^ard Magic 165 

5. Ancient Applied Science and Magic: Vitruvius, 

Hero, and the Greek Alchemists 182 

6. Plutarch's Essays 200 

7. Apuleius of Mad aura 221 

8. Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana . . . 242 

9. Literary and Philosophical Attacks upon Supersti- 

tion : Cicero, Favorinus, Sextus Empiricus, Lucian 268 

TO. Spurious Mystic Writings of Hermes, Orpheus, and 

Zoroaster 287 




n. Neo-Platonism and Its Relations to Astrology and 

Theurgy 298 

12. Aelian, Solinus, and Horapollo 322 


Foreword 337 

13. The Book of Enoch 340 

14. Philo Judaeus 348 

15. The Gnostics 360 

16. The Christian Apocrypha 385 

17. The Recognitions of Clement and Simon Magus . 400 

18. The Confession of Cyprian and Some Similar Stories 428 

19. Origen and Celsus 436 

20. Other Christian Discussion of Magic Before Augus- 

tine 462 

21. Christianity and Natural Science: Basil, Epipha- 

Nius, and the Physiologus 480 

22. Augustine on Magic and Astrology 504 

23. The Fusion of Pagan and Christian Thought in 

the Fourth and Fifth Centuries 523 


24. The Story of Nectanebus, or the Alexander Legend 

in the Early Middle Ages 551 

25. Post-Classical Medicine 566 

26. Pseudo-Literature in Natural Science .... 594 

27. Other Early Medieval Learning: Boethius, Isidore, 

Bede, Gregory 616 

28. Arabic Occult Science of the Ninth Century . . 641 

29. Latin Astrology and Divination, Especially in the 

Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Centuries . . . 672 

30. Gerbert and the Introduction of Arabic Astrology 697 

31. Anglo-Saxon, Salernitan and Other Latin Medi- 

cine IN Manuscripts from the Ninth to the 

Twelfth Century 719 

32. Constantinus Africanus (c. ioi 5-1087) .... 742 

33. Treatises on the Arts Before the Introduction of 

Arabic Alchemy 760 

34. Marbod 775 


General 7^3 

Bibliographical 811 

Manuscripts 831 




35. The Early Scholastics: Peter Abelard and Hugh 

OF St. Victor 3 

36. Adelard of Bath 14 

37. William of Conches 50 

38. Some Twelfth Century Translators, Chiefly of 

Astrology from the Arabic 66 

39. Bernard Silvester; Astrology and Geomancy . . 99 

40. Saint Hildegard of Bingen 124 

41. John of Salisbury 155 

42. Daniel of Morley and Roger of Hereford .... 171 

43. Alexander Neckam on the Natures of Things . . 188 

44. Moses Maimonides 205 

45. Hermetic Books in the Middle Ages 214 

46. Kiranides 229 

47. Prester John and the Marvels of India .... 236 

48. The Pseudo-Aristotle 246 

49. Solomon and the Ars Notoria 279 

50. Ancient and Medieval Dream-Books 290 


Forev^ord 305 

51. Michael Scot 307 

52. William of Auvergne 338 

53. Thomas of Cantimpre 372 

54. Bartholomew of England 401 

55. Robert Grosseteste 436 

56. Vincent of Beauvais 457 

57. Early Thirteenth Century Medicine: Gilbert of 

England and William of England 477 

58. Petrus Hispanus 488 

59. Albertus Magnus 5^7 

I. Life 521 

II. As a Scientist 528 

HI, His Allusions to Magic 548 

IV. Marvelous Virtues in Nature 560 

V. Attitude Toward Astrology 577 



60. Thomas Aquinas 593 

61. Roger Bacon 616 

I. Life 619 

II. Criticism of and Part in Medieval Learning . 630 

III. Experimental Science 649 

IV. Attitude Toward Magic and Astrology . . . 659 

62. The Speculum Astronomiae 692 

6^. Three Treatises Ascribed to Albert 720 

64. Experiments and Secrets: Medical and Biological . 751 

65. Experiments and Secrets : Chemical and Magical . 777 

66. PiCATRIX 813 


68. Arnald of Villanova 841 

69. Raymond Lull 862 

70. Peter of Abano 874 

71. Cecco d'Ascoli 948 

72. Conclusion 969 

Indices : 

General 985 

Bibliographical 1007 

Manuscripts ......••••••■. 1027 


This work has been long in preparation — ever since in 
1902-1903 Professor James Harvey Robinson, when my 
mind was still in the making, suggested the study of magic 
in medieval universities as the subject of my thesis for the 
master's degree at Columbia University — and has been 
foreshadowed by other publications, some of which are 
listed under my name in the preliminary bibliography. 
Since this was set up in type there have also appeared: 
"Galen : the Man and His Times," in The Scientific Monthly, 
January, 1922; "Early Christianity and Natural Science," 
in The Biblical Review, July, 1922; "The Latin Pseudo- 
Aristotle and Medieval Occult Science," in The Journal of 
English and Germanic Philology, April, 1922 ; and notes on 
Daniel of Morley and Gundissalinus in The English His- 
torical Review. For permission to make use of these pre- 
vious publications in the present work I am indebted to the 
editors of the periodicals just mentioned, and also to the 
editors of The Columbia University Studies in History, 
Economics, and Public Law, The American Historical Re- 
view, Classical Philology, The Monist, Nature, The Philo- 
sophical Review, and Science. The form, however, of these 
previous publications has often been altered in embodying 
them in this book, and, taken together, they constitute but 
a fraction of it. Book I greatly amplifies the account of 
magic in the Roman Empire contained in my doctoral dis- 
sertation. Over ten years ago I prepared an account of 
magic and science in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries 
based on material available in print in libraries of this 
country and arranged topically, but I did not publish it, as it 
seemed advisable to supplement it by study abroad and of 
the manuscript material, and to adopt an arrangement by 
authors. The result is Books IV and V of the present work. 

My examination of manuscripts has been done especially 
at the British Museum, whose rich collections, perhaps be- 
cause somewhat inaccessibly catalogued, have been less used 
by students of medieval learning than such libraries as the 


Bodleian and Bibliotheque Nationale. I have worked also, 
however, at both Oxford and Paris, at Munich, Florence, 
Bologna, and elsewhere ; but it has of course been impossible 
to examine all the thousands of manuscripts bearing upon 
the subject, and the war prevented me from visiting some 
libraries, such as the important medieval collection of Am- 
plonius at Erfurt. However, a fairly wide survey of the 
catalogues of collections of manuscripts has convinced me 
that I have read a representative selection. Such classified 
lists of medieval manuscripts as Mrs. Dorothea Singer 
has undertaken for the British Isles should greatly facilitate 
the future labors of investigators in this field. 

Although working in a rather new field, I have been aided 
by editions of medieval writers produced by modern 
scholarship, and by various series, books, and articles tend- 
ing, at least, in the same direction as mine. Some such 
publications have appeared or come to my notice too late 
for use or even for mention in the text : for instance, another 
edition of the De medicamentis of Marcellus Empiricus by 
M. Niedermann; the printing of the Twelve Experiments 
with Snake skin of John Paulinus by J. W. S. Johnsson in 
Bull. d. I. societe frang. d^hist. d. I. med., XII, 257-67; the 
detailed studies of Sante Ferrari on Peter of Abano; and 
A. Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen im Mittelalter, 
1909, 2 vols. The breeding place of the eel (to which I 
allude at I, 491) is now, as a result of recent investigation by 
Dr. J. Schmidt, placed "about 2500 miles from the mouth 
of the English Channel and 500 miles north-east of the 
Leeward Islands" {Discovery, Oct., 1922, p. 256) instead 
of in the Mediterranean. 

A man who once wrote in Dublin * complained of the 
difficulty of composing a learned work so far from the 
Bodleian and British Museum, and I have often felt the 
same way. When able to visit foreign collections or the 
largest libraries in this country, or when books have been 
sent for my use for a limited period, I have spent all the 
available time in the collection of material, which has been 
written up later as opportunity offered. Naturally one then 
finds many small and some important points which require 
verification or further investigation, but which must be 
postponed until one's next vacation or trip abroad, by which 
time some of the smaller points are apt to be forgotten. 
* H. Cotton, Five Books of Maccabees, 1832, pp. ix-x. 


Of such loose threads I fear that more remain than could 
be desired. And I have so often caught myself in the act of 
misinterpretation, misplaced emphasis, and other mistakes, 
that I have no doubt there are other errors as w^ell as 
omissions which other scholars will be able to point out and 
which I trust they will. Despite this prospect, I have been 
bold in affirming my independent opinion on any point 
where I have one, even if it conflicts with that of specialists 
or puts me in the position of criticizing my betters. Con- 
stant questioning, criticism, new points of view, and conflict 
of opinion are essential in the pursuit of truth. 

After some hesitation I decided, because of the expense, 
the length of the work, and the increasing unfamiliarity of 
readers with Greek and Latin, as a rule not to give in the 
footnotes the original language of passages used in the 
text. I have, however, usually supplied the Latin or Greek 
when I have made a free translation or one with which I 
felt that others might not agree. But in such cases I advise 
critics not to reject my rendering utterly without some fur- 
ther examination of the context and line of thought of the 
author or treatise in question, since the wording of particu- 
lar passages in texts and manuscripts is liable to be corrupt, 
and since my purpose in quoting particular passages is to 
illustrate the general attitude of the author or treatise. In 
describing manuscripts I have employed quotation marks 
when I knew from personal examination or otherwise that 
the Latin was that of the manuscript itself, and have 
omitted quotation marks where the Latin seemed rather to 
be that of the description in the catalogue. Usually I have 
let the faulty spelling and syntax of medieval copyists stand 
without comment. But as I am not an expert in palaeog- 
raphy and have examined a large number of manuscripts 
primarily for their substance, the reader should not regard 
my Latin quotations from them as exact transliterations or 
carefully considered texts. He should also remember that 
th-ere is little uniformity in the manuscripts themselves. 
I have tried to reduce the bulk of the footnotes by the 
briefest forms of reference consistent with clearness — con- 
sult lists of abbreviations and of works frequently cited by 
author and date of publication — and by use of appendices 
at the close of certain chapters. 

Within the limits of a preface I may not enumerate all 
the libraries where I have been permitted to work or which 


have generously sent books — sometimes rare volumes — to 
Cleveland for my use, or all the librarians who have person- 
ally assisted my researches or courteously and carefully an- 
swered my written inquiries, or the other scholars who have 
aided or encouraged the preparation of this work, but I 
hope they may feel that their kindness has not been in vain. 
In library matters I have perhaps most frequently imposed 
upon the good nature of Mr, Frederic C. Erb of the Co- 
lumbia University Library, Mr. Gordon W. Thayer, in 
charge of the John G. White collection in the Cleveland 
Public Library, and Mr. George F. Strong, librarian of 
Adelbert College, Western Reserve University; and I cannot 
forbear to mention the interest shown in my work by Dr. 
R. L. Poole at the Bodleian. For letters facilitating my 
studies abroad before the war or application for a passport 
immediately after the war I am indebted to the Hon. 
Philander C. Knox, then Secretary of State, to Frederick 
P. Keppel, then Assistant Secretary of War, to Drs. J. 
Franklin Jameson and Charles F. Thwing, and to Professors 
Henry E. Bourne and Henry Crew. Professors C. H. 
Haskins,^ L. C. Karpinski, W. G. Leutner, W. A, Locy, 
D. B. Macdonald, L. J. Paetow, S. B. Platner, E. C. Rich- 
ardson, James Harvey Robinson, David Eugene Smith, 
D'Arcy W. Thompson, A. H. Thorndike, E. L. Thorndike, 
T. Wingate Todd, and Hutton Webster, and Drs. Charles 
Singer and Se Boyar have kindly read various chapters in 
manuscript or proof and offered helpful suggestions. The 
burden of proof-reading has been generously shared with 
me by Professors B. P. Bourland, C. D. Lamberton, and 
Walter Libby, and especially by Professor Harold North 
Fowler who has corrected proof for practically the entire 
work. After receiving such expert aid and sound counsel 
I must assume all the deeper guilt for such faults and indis- 
cretions as the book may display. 

* But Professor Haskins' recent article in Isis on "Michael Scot and 
Frederick 11" and my chapter on Michael Scot were written quite 


Abhandl. Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der Mathema- 
tischen Wissenschaften, begrundet von M. 
Cantor, Teubner, Leipzig. 

Addit. Additional Manuscripts in the British Museum. 

Amplon, Manuscript collection of Amplonius Ratinck at 

AN Ante-Nicene Fathers, American Reprint of the 

Edinburgh edition, in 9 vols., 191 3. 

AS Acta sanctorum. 

Beitrage Beitrage zur Geschichte der Philosophie des 
Mittelalters, ed. by C, Baeumker, G. v. Hert- 
ling, M. Baumgartner, et al., Miinster, 1891-. 

BL Bodleian Library, Oxford, 

BM British Museum, London. 

BN Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. 

Borgnet Augustus Borgnet, ed. B. Alberti Magni Opera 
omnia, Paris, 1890- 1899, in 38 vols. 

Brewer Fr. Rogeri Bacon Opera quaedam hactenus in- 
edita, ed. J. S. Brewer, London, 1859, in RS, 

Bridges The Opus Maius of Roger Bacon, ed, J. H. 
Bridges, I-II, Oxford, 1897; III, 1900, 

CCAG Catalogus codicum astrologorum Graecorum, ed. 
F. Cumont, W. Kroll, F. Boll, et al., 1898, 

CE Catholic Encyclopedia. 

CFCB Census of Fifteenth Century Books Owned in 
America, compiled by a committee of the Bib- 
liographical Society of America, New York, 

CLM Codex Latinus Monacensis (Latin MS at Mu- 



CSEL Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum, 

Vienna, i866~, 
CU Cambridge University (used to distinguish MSS 

in colleges having the same names as those at 

CUL Cambridge University Library. 

DNB Dictionary of National Biography. 

EB Encyclopedia Britannica, nth edition. 

EETS Early English Text Society Publications. 
EHR English Historical Review. 

ERE Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. J. 

Hastings et al., 1908-. 
HL Histoire Litteraire de la France. 

HZ Historische Zeitschrift, Munich, 1859-. 

Kiihn Medici Graeci, ed. C. J. Kiihn, Leipzig, 1829, 

containing the v^orks of Galen, Dioscorides, 

MG Monumenta Germaniae. 

MS Manuscript. 

MSS Manuscripts. 

Muratori Rerum Italicarum scriptores ab anno aerae chris- 

tianae 500 ad 1500, ed. L. A. Muratori, 1723- 

NH C. Plinii Secundi Naturalis Historia (Pliny's 

Natural History). 
PG Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, series 

PL Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, series 

PN The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second 

Series, ed. Wace and Schaff, 1890-1900, 14 

PW Pauly and Wissowa, Realencyclopadie der class- 

ischen Altertumswissenschaft. 
RS "Rolls Series," or Rerum Britannicarum medii 

aevi scriptores, 99 works in 244 vols., Lon- 
don, 1 858- 1 896. 


TU Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der 

altchristlichen Literatur, ed. Gebhardt und 


Individual manuscripts are usually briefly designated in 
the ensuing notes and appendices by a single word indicating 
the place or collection where the MS is found and the num- 
ber or shelf-mark of the individual MS. So many of the 
catalogues of MSS collections which I consulted were un- 
dated and without name of author that I have decided to 
attempt no catalogue of them. The brief designations that 
I give will be sufficient for anyone who is interested in MSS. 
In giving Latin titles, Incipifs, and the like of MSS I employ 
quotation marks when I know from personal examination 
or otherwise that the wording is that of the MS itself, and 
omit the marks where the Latin seems rather to be that of 
the description in the manuscript catalogue or other source of 
information. In the following List of Works Frequently 
Cited are included a few MSS catalogues whose authors I 
shall have occasion to refer to by name. 




For more detailed bibliography on specific topics and for 
editions or manuscripts of the texts used see the bibliogra- 
phies, references, and appendices to individual chapters. I 
also include here some works of general interest or of rather 
cursory character which I have not had occasion to mention 
elsewhere; and I usually add, for purposes of differentia- 
tion, other works in our field by an author than those works 
by him which are frequently cited. Of the many histories of 
the sciences, medicine, and magic that have appeared since 
the invention of printing I have included but a small selec- 
tion. Almost without exception they have to be used with 
the greatest caution. 
Abano, Peter of. Conciliator differentiarum philosophorum 

et praecipue medicorum, 1472, 1476, 1521, 1526, etc. 

De venenis, 1472, 1476, 1484, 1490, 1515, 1521, etc. 
Abel, ed. Orphica, 1885. 

Abelard, Peter. Opera hactenus seorsim edita, ed. V. Cou- 
sin, Paris, 1849-1859, 2 vols. 

Ouvrages inedits, ed. V. Cousin, 1835. 
Abt, Die Apologie des Apuleius von Madaura und die an- 

tike Zauberei, Giessen, 1908. 
Achmetis Oneirocriticon, ed. Rigaltius, Paris, 1603. 
Adelard of Bath, Ouaestiones naturales, 1480, 1485, etc. 

De eodem et diverso, ed. H. Willner, Miinster, 1903. 
Ahrens, K. Das Buch der Naturgegenstande, 1892. 

Zur Geschichte des sogenannten Physiologus, 1885. 
Ailly, Pierre d', Tractatus de ymagine mundi (and other 

works), 1480 (?). 
Albertus Magnus, Opera omnia, ed. A. Borgnet, Paris, 1890- 

1899, 38 vols. 


Allbutt, Sir T. Clifford. The Historical Relations of Medi- 
cine and Surgery to the End of the Sixteenth Century, 
London, 1905, 122 pp.; an address delivered at the St. 
Louis Congress in 1904. 

The Rise of the Experimental Method in Oxford, Lon- 
don, 1902, 53 pp., from Journal of the Oxford Univer- 
sity Junior Scientific Club, May, 1902, being the ninth 
Robert Boyle Lecture. 

Science and Medieval Thought, London, 1901, 116 
brief pages. The Harveian Oration delivered before 
the Royal College of Physicians. 

Allendy, R. F. L'Alchimie et la Medecine; fitude sur les 
theories hermetiques dans I'histoire de la medecine, 
Paris, 1 91 2, 155 pp. 

Anz, W. Zur Frage nach dem Ursprung des Gnostizismus, 
Leipzig, 1897. 

Aquinas, Thomas. Opera omnia, ed. E. Frette et P. Mare, 
Paris, 1 87 1 -1880, 34 vols. 

Aristotle, De animalibus historia, ed. Dittmeyer, 1907; En- 
glish translations by R. Creswell, 1848, and D'Arcy W. 
Thompson, Oxford, 1910. 

Pseudo-Aristotle. Lapidarius, Merszborg, 1473. 

Secretum secretorum, Latin translation from the Arabic 
by Philip of Tripoli in many editions; and see Gaster. 

Arnald of Villanova, Opera, Lyons, 1532. 

Artemidori Daldiani et Achmetis Sereimi F. Oneirocritica ; 
Astrampsychi et Nicephori versus etiam Oneirocritici ; 
Nicolai Rigaltii ad Artemidorum Notae, Paris, 1603. 

Ashmole, Elias, Theatrum chemicum Britannicum, 1652. 

Astruc, Jean. Memoires pour servir a I'histoire de la Fa- 
culte de Medecine de Montpellier, Paris, 1767. 

Auri ferae artis quam chemiam vocant antiquissimi auctores, 
Basel, 1572. 

Barach et Wrobel, Bibliotheca Philosophorum Mediae Aeta- 
tis, 1876-1878, 2 vols. 

Bartholomew of England, De proprietatibus rerum Lingel- 
bach, Heidelberg, 1488, and other editions. 


Bauhin, De plantis a divis sanctisve nomen habentibus, 

Basel, 1 59 1. 
Baur, Ludwig, ed. Gundissalinus De divisione philosophiae, 

Miinster, 1903. 

Die Philosophischen Werke des Robert Grosseteste, 

Miinster, 19 12. 
Beazley, C. R. The Dawn of Modern Geography, London, 

1 897-1 906, 3 vols. 
Bernard, E. Catalog! librorum manuscriptorum Angliae et 

Hiberniae in unum collecti (The old catalogue of the 

Bodleian MSS), Tom. I, Pars i, Oxford, 1697. 
Berthelot, P. E. M. Archeologie et histoire des sciences 

avec publication nouvelle du papyrus grec chimique de 

Leyde et impression originale du Liber de septuaginta 

de Geber, Paris, 1906. 

Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs, 1887- 1888, 3 


Introduction a I'etude de la chimie des anciens et du 

moyen age, 1889. 

La chimie au moyen age, 1893, 3 vols. 

Les origines de I'alchimie, 1885. 

Sur les voyages de Galien et de Zosime dans I'Archipel 

et en Asie, et sur la matiere medicale dans I'antiquite, 

in Journal des Savants, 1895, PP- 382-7. 
Bezold, F. von, Astrologische Geschichtsconstruction im 

Mittelalter, in Deutsche Zeitschrift fiir Geschichtswiss- 

enschaft, VIII (1892) 29ff. 
Bibliotheca Chemica. See Borel and Manget. 
Bjornbo, A. A. und Vogl, S. Alkindi, Tideus, und Pseudo- 

Euklid; drei optische Werke, Leipzig, 191 1. 
Black, W. H. Catalogue of the Ashmolean Manuscripts, 

Oxford, 1845. 
Boffito, P. G. II Commento di Cecco d'Ascoli all' Alcabizzo, 

Florence, 1905. 

II De principiis astrologiae di Cecco d'Ascoli, in Gior- 

nale Storico della Letteratura Italiana, Suppl. 6, Turin, 



Perche fu condannato al fuoco I'astrologo Cecco d'As- 

coli, in Studi e Documenti di Storia e Diritto, Publi- 

cazione periodica dell' accademia de conferenza Storico- 

Giuridiche, Rome, XX (1899). 
Boll, Franz. Die Erforschung der antiken Astrologie, in 

Neue Jahrb. f. d. klass. Altert., XI (1908) 103-26. 

Eine arabisch-byzantische Quelle des Dialogs Hermip- 

pus, in Sitzb. Heidelberg Akad., Philos. Hist. Classe 

(1912) No. 18, 28 pp. 

Sphaera, Leipzig, 1903. 

Studien iiber Claudius Ptolemaeus, in Jahrb. f. klass. 

Philol., Suppl. Bd. XXI. 

Zur Ueberlieferungsgeschichte d. griech. Astrologie u. 

Astronomie, in Miinch. Akad. Sitzb., 1899. 
Boll und Bezold, Stemglauben, Leipzig, 19 18; I have not 

Bonatti, Guido. Liber astronomicus, Ratdolt, Augsburg, 

Boncompagni, B. Delia vita e delle Opere di Gherardo 
Cremonese traduttore del secolo duodecimo e di Ghe- 
rardo da Sabbionetta astronomo del secolo decimoterzo, 
Rome, 1 85 1. 

Delia vita e delle opere di Guido Bonatti astrologo 
ed astronomo del secolo decimoterzo, Rome, 1851. 
Estratte dal Giornale Arcadico, Tomo CXXIII- 
CXXIV. Delia vita e delle opere di Leonardo Pisano, 
Rome, 1852. 
Intorno ad alcune opere di Leonardo Pisano, Rome, 

Borel, P. Bibliotheca Chimica seu catalogus librorum phi- 

losophicorum hermeticorum usque ad annum 1653, 

Paris, 1654. 
Bostock, J. and Riley, H. T. The Natural History of 

Pliny, translated with copious notes, London, 1855 ; 

reprinted 1887. 
Bouche-Leclercq, A. L'astrologie dans le monde romain, in 

Revue Historique, vol. 65 (1897) 241-99. 


L'astrologie grecque, Paris, 1899, 658 pp. 

Histoire de la divination dans I'antiquite, 1879- 1882, 

4 vols. 
Breasted, J. H. Development of Religion and Thought in 

Ancient Egypt, New York, 191 2. 

A History of Egypt, 1905; second ed., 1909. 
Brehaut, E. An Encyclopedist of the Dark Ages; Isidore of 

Seville, in Columbia University Studies in History, etc., 

vol. 48 (1912) 1-274. 
Brewer, J. S. Monumenta Franciscana (RS IV, i), Lon- 
don, 1858. 
Brown, J. Wood. An inquiry into the life and legend of 

Michael Scot, Edinburgh, 1897. 
Browne, Edward G. Arabian Medicine (the Fitzpatrick 

Lectures of 1919 and 1920), Cambridge University 

Press, 1 92 1. 
Browne, Sir Thomas. Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1650. 
Bubnov, N. ed. Gerberti opera mathematica, Berlin, 1899. 
Budge, E. A. W. Egyptian Magic, London, 1899. 

Ethiopic Histories of Alexander by the Pseudo-Callis- 

thenes and other writers, Cambridge University Press, 


Syriac Version of Pseudo-Callisthenes, Cambridge, 


Syrian Anatomy, Pathology, and Therapeutics, Lon- 
don, 1 91 3, 2 vols. 
Bunbury, E. H. A History of Ancient Geography, London, 

1879, 2 vols. 
Cahier et Martin, Melanges d'archeologie, d'histoire et de 

litterature, Paris, 1847-1856, 4 folio vols. 
Cajori, F. History of Mathematics; second edition, revised 

and enlarged, 191 9. 
Cantor, M. Vorlesungen iiber Geschichte der Mathematik, 

3rd edition, Leipzig, 1 899-1 908, 4 vols. Reprint of vol. 

II in 1913. 
Carini, S. I. Sulle Scienze Occulte nel Medio Evo, Palermo, 

1872 ; I have not seen. 


Cauzons, Th. de. La magie et la sorcellerie en France, 1910, 
4 vols. ; largely compiled from secondary sources. 

Charles, E. Roger Bacon: sa vie, ses ouvrages, ses doc- 
trines, Bordeaux, 1861. 

Charles, R. H. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the 
Old Testament, English translation with introductions 
and critical and explanatory notes in conjunction with 
many scholars, Oxford, 191 3, 2 large vols. 
Ascension of Isaiah, 1900, and reprinted in 1917. 
The Book of Enoch, Oxford, 1893; translated anew, 

Charles, R. H. and Morfill, W. R. The Book of the Secrets 
of Enoch, Oxford, 1896. 

Charterius, Renatus ed. Galeni opera, Paris, 1679, 13 vols. 

Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, see Denifle et Cha- 

Chassang, A. Le merveilleux dans I'antiquite, 1882 ; I have 
not seen. 

Choulant, Ludwig. Albertus Magnus in seiner Bedeutung 
fiir die Naturwissenschaften historisch und bibliogra- 
phisch dargestellt, in Janus, I (1846) I52ff. 
Die Anfange wissenschaftlicher Naturgeschichte und 
naturhistorischer Abbildung, Dresden, 1856. 
Handbuch der Biicherkunde fiir die altere Medicin, 2nd 
edition, Leipzig, 1841 ; like the foregoing, slighter than 
the title leads one to hope. 

ed. Macer Floridus de viribus herbarum una cum Wala- 
fridi Strabonis, Othonis Cremonensis et loannis Folcz 
carminibus similis argumenti, 1832. 

Christ, W. Geschichte der Griechischen Litteratur; see W. 

Chwolson, D. Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus, Petrograd, 
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Berlin, XXXVII (1866) 351-410. 


Der Aberglaube, Hamburg, 1900, 34 pp. 

Die europaischen Uebersetzungen aus dem Arabischen 

bis Mitte des 17 Jahrhunderts, in Sitzungsberichte d. 

kaiserl. Akad. d. Wiss., Philos. Hist. Klasse, Vienna, 

CXLIX, 4 (1905) ; CLI, I (1906). 

Lapidarien, ein culturgeschichtlicher Versuch, in 

Semitic Studies in memory of Rev. Dr. Alexander 

Kohut, Berlin, 1897, pp. 42-72. 

Maschallah, in Zeitsch. d. deut. morgenl. GeselL, LIH 

(1899), 434-40. 

Zum Speculum astronomicum des Albertus Magnus 

liber die darin angefiihrten Schriftsteller und Schriften, 

in Zeitschrift fiir Mathematik und Physik, Leipzig, 

XVI (1871)357-96.^ 

Zur alchimistischen Literatur der Araber, in Zeitsch, d. 
deut. morgenl. Gesell., LVIH (1904) 299-315. 
Zur pseudepigraphischen Literatur insbesondere der ge- 
heimen Wissenschaften des Mittelalters; aus hebrai- 
schen und arabischen Quellen, Berlin, 1862. 

Stephanus, H. Medicae artis principes post Hippocratem et 
Galenum Graeci Latinitate donati, et Latini, 1567. 

Strunz, Franz. Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften im Mit- 
telalter, Stuttgart, 1910, 120 pp. Without index or ref- 

Studien zur Geschichte der Medizin herausgegeben von der 
Puschmann-Stiftung an der Universitat Leipzig, 1907-. 

Sudhoff, Karl. His various articles in the foregoing publi- 
cation and other periodicals of which he is an editor lie 
in large measure just outside our period and field, but 
some will be noted later in particular chapters. 

Suter, H. Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber, 
in Abhandl., X (1900) 1-277; XIV (1902) 257-85. 
Die astronomischen Tafeln des Muhammed ibn Musa- 
al-Khwarizmi, Copenhagen, 19 14. 

Tanner, T. Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica, London, 
1748. Still much cited but largely antiquated and un- 


Tavenner, E, Studies in Magic from Latin Literature, New 
York, 1 916. 

Taylor, H. O. The Classical Heritage, 1901. 

The Medieval Mind, 2nd edition, 1914, 2 vols; 3rd edi- 
tion, 191 9. 

Theatrum chemicum. See Zetzner. 

Theatrum chemicum Britannicum. See Ashmole. 

Theophilus Presbyter, Schedula diversarum artium, ed. A. 
Ilg, Vienna, 1874; English translation by R. Hendrie, 
London, 1847. 

Thomas of Cantimpre, Bonum universale de apibus, 15 16. 

Thompson, D'Arcy W. Aristotle as a Biologist, 1913. 
Glossary of Greek Birds, Oxford, 1895. 
Historia animalium, Oxford, 19 10; vol. IV in the Eng- 
lish translation of The Works of Aristotle edited by 
J. A. Smith and W. D. Ross. 

Thorndike, Lynn. Adelard of Bath and the Continuity of 
Universal Nature, in Nature, XCIV (191 5) 616-7. 
A Roman Astrologer as a Historical Source : Julius 
Firmicus Maternus, in Classical Philology, VHI 
(1913) 415-35- 

Natural Science in the Middle Ages, in Popular Science 
Monthly (now The Scientific Monthly), LXXXVH 
(1915) 271-91. 

Roger Bacon and Gunpowder, in Science, XLH 
(1915), 799-800. 

Roger Bacon and Experimental Method in the Middle 
Ages, in The Philosophical Review, XXIH (1914), 

Some Medieval Conceptions of Magic, in The Monist, 
XXV (1915). 107-39. 

The Attitude of Origen and Augustine toward Magic, 
in The Monist, XIX (1908), 46-66. 
The Place of Magic in the Intellectual History of 
Europe, Columbia University Press, 1905. 
The True Roger Bacon, in American Historical Re- 
view, XXI (1916), 237-57, 468-80. 


Tiraboschi. Storia della Letteratura Italiana, Modena, 

Tischendorf, C. Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha, Leipzig, 


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Mittelalter, 1898. 
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catholique, Paris, 1909-. 
Valentinelli, J. Bibliotheca manuscripta ad S. Marci 

Venetiarum, Venice, 1 868-1 876, 6 vols. 
Valois, Noel. Guillaume d'Auvergne, eveque de Paris, 

1228-1249. Sa vie et ses ouvrages, Paris, 1880. 
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Speculum historiale, 1473. 

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tione liber, Amsterdam, 1650. 
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Old Time Makers of Medicine; the story of the stu- 
dents and teachers of the sciences related to medicine 

during the middle ages, New York, 191 1. Popular. 

The Popes and Science, 1908. 
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Webster, Hutton. Rest Days, 19 16. 
Wedel, T. C. The Medieval Attitude toward Astrology 

particularly in England, Yale University Press, 1920. 
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Die Schrift des Dioskurides Ilept airXcJv (j^apnaKchv, 1914. 
White, A. D. A History of the Warfare of Science with 

Theology in Christendom, New York, 1896, 2 vols. 
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neuvieme, dixieme et onzieme siecles, in Transactions 

of the Seventeenth International Congress of Medicine, 


Section XXIII, History of Medicine, London, 1913, 

P- 313 ff. 
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Times, London, 1894. 
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during the middle ages in Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Nor- 
man, and English, London, 1841, 

ed. Alexander Neckam De naturis rerum, in RS vol. 

34, 1863. 
Wulf, M. de. History of Medieval Philosophy, 1909, 

English translation. 
Wiistenfeld, F. Geschichte der Arabischen Aerzte und 

Naturforscher, Gottingen, 1840. 
Yule, Sir Henry, The Book of Ser Marco Polo, third edition 

revised by Henri Cordier, 2 vols., London, 1903. 
Zarncke, F. Der Priester Johannes, in Abhandl. d. philol.- 

hist. Classe, Kgl. Sachs. Gesell. d. Wiss., VII (1879), 

627-1030; VIII (1883), 1-186. 
Zetzner, L. Theatrum chemicum, 161 3- 1622, 6 vols. 







Aim of this book — Period covered — How to study the history of 
thought — Definition of magic — Magic of primitive man ; does civiliza- 
tion originate in magic? — Divination in early China — Magic in ancient 
Egypt — Magic and Egyptian religion— Mortuary magic — Magic in daily 
life — Power of words, images, amulets — Magic in Egyptian medicine — 
Demons and disease — Magic and science — Magic and industry — Alchemy 
■ — Divination and astrology — The sources for Assyrian and Babylonian 
magic — ^Was astrology Sumerian or Chaldean? — The number seven 
in early Babylonia — Incantation texts older than astrological — Other 
divination than astrology — Incantations against sorcery and demons — 
A specimen incantation — Materials and devices of magic — Greek culture 
not free from magic — Magic in myth, literature, and history — Simul- 
taneous increase of learning and occult science — Magic origin urged for 
Greek religion and drama — Magic in Greek philosophy — Plato's attitude 
toward magic and astrology — Aristotle on stars and spirits — Folk-lore 
in the History of Animals — Differing modes of transmission of ancient . 
oriental and Greek literature — More magical character of directly trans- 
mitted Greek remains — Progress of science among the Greeks — Archi- 
medes and Aristotle — Exaggerated view of the scientific achievement 
of the Hellenistic age — Appendix I. Some works on Magic, Religion, 
and Astronomy in Babylonia and Assyria. 

"Magic has existed among all peoples and at every 
period." — Hegel} 

This book aims to treat the history of magic and expert- Aim of 

mental science and their relations to Christian thought dur- ^^'^ ^odk. 

ing the first thirteen centuries of our era, with especial 

emphasis upon the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. No 

* Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion ; quoted by Sir James 
Frazer, The Magic Art (1911), I, 426. 


adequate survey of the history of either magic or experi- 
mental science exists for this period, and considerable use 
of manuscript material has been necessary for the medieval 
period. Magic is here understood in the broadest sense of 
the word, as including all occult arts and sciences, supersti- 
tions, and folk-lore. I shall endeavor to justify this use 
of the word from the sources as I proceed. My idea is 
that magic and experimental science have been connected 
in their development; that magicians were perhaps the 
first to experiment; and that the history of both magic and 
experimental science can be better understood by studying 
them together, I also desire to make clearer than it has 
been to most scholars the Latin learning of the medieval 
period, whose leading personalities even are generally inac- 
curately known, and on perhaps no one point is illumination 
more needed than on that covered by our investigation. The 
subject of laws against magic, popular practice of magic, 
the witchcraft delusion and persecution lie outside of the 
scope of this book.^ 

At first my plan was to limit this investigation to the 
twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the time of greatest 
medieval productivity, but I became convinced that this 
period could be best understood by viewing it in the setting 
of the Greek, Latin, and early Christian writers to whom 
it owed so much. If the student of the Byzantine Empire 
needs to know old Rome, the student of the medieval church 
to comprehend early Christianity, the student of Romance 
languages to understand Latin, still more must the reader 
of Constantinus Africanus, Vincent of Beauvais, Guide 
Bonatti, and Thomas Aquinas be familiar with the Pliny, 
Galen, and Ptolemy, the Origen and Augustine, the Alkindi 
and Albumasar from whom they drew. It would indeed be 
difficult to draw a line anywhere between them. The ancient 

*That field has already been soon to be edited by Professor 

treated by Joseph Hansen, Zau- George L. Burr from H. C. Lea's 

berwahn. Inquisition und Hexen- materials. See also a work just 

prozess im ISfittelalter, 1900, and published by Miss M. A. Murray, 

will be further illuminated by A The Witch-Cult in Western Eu' 

History of Witchcraft in Eurofie, rope, Oxford, 1921. 


authors are generally extant only in their medieval form; 
in some cases there is reason to suspect that they have 
undergone alteration or addition; sometimes new works 
were fathered upon them. In any case they have been pre- 
served to us because the middle ages studied and cherished 
them, and to a great extent made them their own. I begin 
with the first century of our era, because Christian thought 
begins then, and then appeared Pliny's Natural History 
which seems to me the best starting point of a survey of 
ancient science and magic, ^ I close with the thirteenth 
century, or, more strictly speaking, in the course of the four- 
teenth, because by then the medieval revival of learning had 
spent its force. Attention is centred on magic and experi- 
mental science in western Latin literature and learning, 
Greek and Arabic works being considered as they con- 
tributed thereto, and vernacular literature being omitted as 
either derived from Latin works or unlearned and unscien- 

Very probably I have tried to cover too much ground How to 
and have made serious omissions. It is probably true that f^^^^ *^^- 

^ -' . history of 

for the history of thought as for the history of art the evi- thought. 

dence and source material is more abundant than for politi- 
cal or economic history. But fortunately it is more reliable, 
since the pursuit of truth or beauty does not encourage 
deception and prejudice as does the pursuit of wealth or 
power. Also the history of thought is more unified and 
consistent, steadier and more regular, than the fluctuations 
and diversities of political history; and for this reason its 
general outlines can be discerned with reasonable sureness 
by the examination of even a limited number of examples, 
provided they are properly selected from a period of suf- 
ficient duration. Moreover, it seems to me that in the 
present stage of research into and knowledge of our subject 

^ Some of my scientific friends a treatment of the science of the 
have urged me to begin with genuine Aristotle per se, although 
Aristotle, as being a much abler in the course of this book I shall 
scientist than Pliny, but this would say something of his medieval in- 
take us rather too far back in fluence and more especially of the 
time and I have not felt equal to Pseudo-Aristotle. 


sounder conclusions and even more novel ones can be drawn 
by a wide comparative survey than by a minutely intensive 
and exhaustive study of one man or of a few years. The 
danger is of writing from too narrow a view-point, magni- 
fying unduly the importance of some one man or theory, 
and failing to evaluate the facts in their full historical 
setting. No medieval writer whether on science or magic 
can be understood by himself, but must be measured in 
respect to his surroundings and antecedents. 
Definition Some may think it strange that I associate magic so 

closely with the history of thought, but the word comes 
from the Magi or wise men of Persia or Babylon, to whose 
lore and practices the name was applied by the Greeks and 
Romans, or possibly we may trace its etymology a little 
farther back to the Sumerian or Turanian word imga or 
unga, meaning deep or profound. The exact meaning of 
the word, "magic," was a matter of much uncertainty even 
in classical and medieval times, as we shall see. There can 
be no doubt, however, that it was then applied not merely 
to an operative art, but also to a mass of ideas or doctrine, 
and that it represented a way of looking at the world. This 
side of magic has sometimes been lost sight of in hasty or 
assumed modern definitions which seem to regard magic as 
merely a collection of rites and feats. In the case of primi- 
tive men and savages it is possible that little thought accom- 
panies their actions. But until these acts are based upon 
or related to some imaginative, purposive, and rational 
thinking, the doings of early man cannot be distinguished 
as either religious or scientific or magical. Beavers build 
dams, birds build nests, ants excavate, but they have no 
magic just as they have no science or religion. Magic im- 
plies a mental state and so may be viewed from the stand- 
point of the history of thought. In process of time, as the 
learned and educated lost faith in magic, it was degraded 
to the low practices and beliefs of the ignorant and vulgar. 
It was this use of the term that was taken up by anthro- 
pologists and by them applied to analogous doings and 


notions of primitive men and savages. But we may go too 
far in regarding magic as a purely social product of tribal 
society : magicians may be, in Sir James Frazer's words,^ 
"the only professional class" among the lowest savages, but 
note that they rank as a learned profession from the start. 
It will be chiefly through the writings of learned men that 
something of their later history and of the growth of 
interest in experimental science will be traced in this work. 
Let me add that in this investigation all arts of divination, 
including astrology, will be reckoned as magic; I have been 
quite unable to separate the two either in fact or logic, as I 
shall illustrate repeatedly by particular cases." 

Magic is very old, and it will perhaps be well in this in- 
troductory chapter to present it to the reader, if not in its 
infancy — for its origins are much disputed and perhaps 
antecede all record and escape all observation — at least some 
centuries before its Roman and medieval days. Sir J. G. 
Frazer, in a passage of The Golden Bough to which we 
have already referred, remarks that "sorcerers are found 
in every savage tribe known to us; and among the lowest 
savages . . . they are the only professional class that 
exists." ^ Lenormant affirmed in his Chaldean Magic and 
Sorcery ^ that "all magic rests upon a system of religious 
belief," but recent sociologists and anthropologists have 

^ Frazer has, of course, repeat- 
edly made the point that modern 
science is an outgrowth from 
primitive magic. Carveth Read, 
The Origin of Man, 1920, in his 
chapter on "Magic and Science" 
contends that "in no case ... is 
Science derived from Magic" (p. 
337), but this is mainly a logical 
and ideal distinction, since he 
admits that "for ages" science "is 
in the hands of wizards." 

*_I am glad to see that other 
virriters on magic are taking this 
view ; for instance, E. Doutte, 
Magie et religion dans I'Afrique 
du Nord, Alger, 1909, p. 351. 

* Golden Bough, 1894, I. 420. 
W. I. Thomas, "The Relation of 
the Medicine-Man to the Origin 

of the Professional Occupations" 
(reprinted in his Source Book for 
Social Origins, 4th edition, pp. 
281-303), in which he disputes 
Herbert Spencer's "thesis that the 
medicine-man is the source and 
origin of the learned and artistic 
occupations," does not really con- 
flict with Frazer's statement, since 
for Thomas the medicine-man is 
a priest rather than a magician. 
Thomas remarks later in the same 
book (p. 437), "Furthermore, the 
whole attempt of the savage to 
control the outside world, so far 
as it contained a theory or a doc- 
trine, was based on magic." 

* Chaldean Magic and Sorcery. 
1878, p. 70. 


inclined to regard magic as older than a belief in gods. At 
any rate some of the most primitive features of historical 
religions seem to have originated from magic. Moreover, 
religious cults, rites, and priesthoods are not the only things 
that have been declared inferior in antiquity to magic and 
largely indebted to it for their origins. Combarieu in his 
Music and Magic ^ asserts that the incantation is universally 
employed in all the circumstances of primitive life and 
that from it, by the medium it is true of religious poetry, all 
modern music has developed. The magic incantation is, 
in short, "the oldest fact in the history of civilization.'* 
Although the magician chants without thought of aesthetic 
form or an artistically appreciative audience, yet his spell 
contains in embryo all that later constitutes the art of music. ^ 
M. Paul Huvelin, after asserting with similar confidence 
that poetry,^ the plastic arts,* medicine, mathematics, astron- 
omy, and chemistry "have easily discernable magic sources," 
states that he will demonstrate that the same is true of law.*^ 
Very recently, however, there has been something of a reac- 
tion against this tendency to regard the life of primitive 
man as made up entirely of magic and to trace back every 
phase of civilization to a magical origin. But R. R. Marett 
still sees a higher standard of value in primitive man's magic 
than in his warfare and brutal exploitation of his fellows 
and believes that the "higher plane of experience for which 
mana stands is one in which spiritual enlargement is appre- 
ciated for its own sake." ^ 

Of the five classics included in the Confucian Canon, 
The Book of Changes (I Citing or Yi-King), regarded by 

^ Jules Combarieu, La musigue Art, London, 1900, Chapter xx, 

et la magie, Paris, 1909, p. v. "Art and Magic." J. Capart, 

^ Ibid., pp. 13-14. Primitive Art in Egypt. 

"Among the , early Arabs . p_ Huvelin, Magie et droit in- 

AT'^ M r^'^'f utterance ai^idud, Paris, 1907, in Annee 

(Macdonald (1909). p. 16), and Sociologique, X, v-i?^; see too 

the poet a wizard m league with ^.^ ^^/ /^^^^^^^^^ magiques et le 

spirits (Nicholson, A Uterary droit romain, Ukcon,iW 

History of the Arabs, 1914, p. 72). ' 

*Sce S. Reinach, "L'Art et la ' R. R. Marett, Psychology and 

Magie," in LAnthropologie, XIV Folk-Lore, 1920, Chapter iii on 

(1903), and Y. Hirn, Origins of "Primitive Values." 


some as the oldest work in Chinese literature and dated 
back as early as 3000 B.C., in its rudimentary form appears 
to have been a method of divination by means of eight 
possible combinations in triplets of a line and a broken line. 
Thus, if a be a line and h a broken line, we may have acui', 
bbb, aab, bba, abb, baa, aba, and bah. Possibly there is a 
connection with the use of knotted cords which, Chinese 
writers state, preceded written characters, like the method 
used in ancient Peru. More certain would seem the resem- 
blance to the medieval method of divination known as 
geomancy, which we shall encounter later in our Latin 
authors. Magic and astrology might, of course, be traced 
all through Chinese history and literature. But, contenting 
ourselves with this single example of the antiquity of such 
arts in the civilization of the far east, let us turn to other 
ancient cultures which had a closer and more unmistakable 
influence upon the western world. 

Of the ancient Egyptians Budge writes, "The belief in Magic in 
magic influenced their minds . . . from the earliest to the Egypt, 
latest period of their history ... in a manner which, at 
this stage in the history of the world, is very difficult to 
understand." -^ To the ordinary historical student the evi- 
dence for this assertion does not seem quite so overwhelm- 
ing as the Egyptologists would have us think. It looks 
thinner when we begin to spread it out over a stretch of four 

^ E. A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian berspriiche fur Mutter und Kind, 

Magic, 1899, p. vii. Some other 1901. F. L. Griffith and H. 

works on magic in Egypt are: Thompson, The Demotic Magical 

Groff, Etudes sur la sorcellerie, Papyrus of London and Leiden, 

memoires presentes a I'institut 1904. See also J. H. Breasted, 

egyptien, Cairo, 1897; G. Busson, Development of Religion and 

Extrait d'un memoire sur fori- Thought in Ancient Egypt, New 

gine egyptienne de la Kabhale, in York, 1912. 

Compte Rendu du Congres Scien- The following later but briefer 

tiHque International des Catho- treatments add little to Budge: 

liques, Sciences Religieuses, Paris, Alfred Wiedemann, Magie und 

1891, pp. 29-51. Adolf Erman, Life Zauberei im Alten ALgypten, Leip- 

w Ancient Egypt, English transla- zig, 1905, and Die Amulette der 

tion, 1894, "describes vividly the alten ^gyptcr, Leipzig, 1910, both 

magical conceptions and practices." in Der Alte Orient; Alexandre 

F. L. Griffith, Stories of the High Moret, La magic dans tEgypte 

Priests of Memphis, Oxford, 1900, ancienne, Paris, 1906, in Musee 

contains some amusing demotic Guimet, Annates, Bibliotheque de 

tales of magicians. Erman, Zau- vulgarisation. XX. 241-81. 






thousand years, and it scarcely seems scientific to adduce 
details from medieval Arabic tales or from the late Greek 
fiction of the Pseudo-Callisthenes or from papyri of the 
Christian era concerning the magic of early Egypt. And 
it may be questioned whether two stories preserved in the 
Westcar papyrus, written many centuries afterwards, are 
alone "sufficient to prove that already in the Fourth Dynasty 
the working of magic was a recognized art among the 
Egyptians." ^ 

At any rate we are told that the belief in magic not only 
was predynastic and prehistoric, but was "older in Egypt 
than the belief in God." ^ In the later religion of the Egyp- 
tians, along with more lofty and intellectual conceptions, 
magic was still a principal ingredient.^ Their mythology 
was affected by it * and they not only combated demons 
with magical formulae but believed that they could terrify 
and coerce the very gods by the same method, compelling 
them to appear, to violate the course of nature by miracles, 
or to admit the human soul to an equality with themselves.^ 

Magic was as essential in the future life as here on earth 
among the living. Many, if not most, of the observances 
and objects connected with embalming and burial had a 
magic purpose or mode of operation; for instance, the 
"magic eyes placed over the opening in the side of the body 
through which the embalmer removed the intestines," ® or 
the mannikins and models of houses buried with the dead. 
In the process of embalming the wrapping of each bandage 
was accompanied by the utterance of magic words. '^ In "the 
oldest chapter of human thought extant" — the Pyramid 

* Budge (1899), p. 19. At pp. 7- 
10 Budge dates the Westcar Papy- 
rus about 1550 B. C. and Cheops, 
of whom the tale is told, in 3800 
B. C. It is now customary to date 
the Fourth Dynasty, to which 
Cheops belonged, about 2900-2750 
B. C. Breasted, History of Egypt, 
pp. 122-3, speaks of a folk tale 
preserved in the Papyrus Westcar 
some nine (?) centuries after the 
fall of the Fourth Dynasty. 

* Budge, p. ix. 

° Budge, pp. xiii-xiv. 

* For magical myths see E. Na- 
ville, The Old Egyptian Faith, 
English translation by C. Camp- 
bell, 1909, p. 23;^ et seq. 

* Budge, pp. 3-4; Lenormant, 
Chaldean Magic, p. 100; Wiede- 
mann (1905), pp. 12, 14, 31- 

" So labelled in the Egyptian 
Museum at Cairo. 
'Budge, p. 185. 


Texts written in hieroglyphic at the tombs at Sakkara of 
Pharaohs of the fifth and sixth dynasties (c, 2625-2475 
B.C.), magic is so manifest that some have averred "that the 
whole body of Pyramid Texts is simply a collection of 
magical charms." ^ The scenes and objects painted on the 
walls of the tombs, such as those of nobles in the fifth and 
sixth dynasties, were employed with magic intent and were 
meant to be realized in the future life; and with the twelfth 
dynasty the Egyptians began to paint on the insides of the 
coffins the objects that were formerly actually placed 
within.^ Under the Empire the famous Book of the Dead 
is a collection of magic pictures, charms, and incantations 
for the use of the deceased in the hereafter,^ and while it is 
not of the early period, we hear that "a book with words of 
magic power" was buried with a pharaoh of the Old King- 
dom. Budge has "no doubt that the object of every reli- 
gious text ever written on tomb, stele, amulet, coffin, papy- 
rus, etc., was to bring the gods under the power of the de- 
ceased, so that he might be able to compel them to do his 
will." * Breasted, on the other hand, thinks that the amount 
and complexity of this mortuary magic increased greatly in 
the later period under popular and priestly influence.^ 

Breasted nevertheless believes that magic had played Magic in 
a great part in daily life throughout the whole course of dailyhfe. 
Egyptian history. He writes, "It is difficult for the modern 
mind to understand how completely the belief in magic pene- 
trated the whole substance of life, dominating popular cus- 
tom and constantly appearing in the simplest acts of the 
daily household routine, as much a matter of course as 

^Breasted (1912), pp. 84-5, 93-5. Day," Breasted, History of Egypt, 

Systematic study" of the Pyra- p. 175. 

mid Texts has been possible "only *r> ^ o 

since the appearance of Sethe's cudge, p. 2S. 

great edition,"— DiV Altsgypti- ^History of Egypt, p. 175; pp. 

schen Pyramidentexte, Leipzig, 249-50 for the further increase in 

l5K)8-i9io, 2 vols. mortuary magic after the Middle 

^ Budge, pp. 104-7. Kingdom, and pp. 369-70, 390, etc., 

Many of them are to enable for Ikhnaton's vain effort to sup- 

the dead man to leave his tomb at press this mortuary magic. See 

will; hence the Egyptian title, also Breasted (1912), pp. 95-6, 281. 

'The Chapters of Going Forth by 292-6, etc. 



Power of 

Magit in 

sleep or the preparation of food. It constituted the very 
atmosphere in which the men of the early oriental world 
lived. Without the saving and salutary influence of such 
magical agencies constantly invoked, the life of an ancient 
household in the East was unthinkable." ^ 

Most of the main features and varieties of magic known 
to us at other times and places appear somewhere in the 
course of Egypt's long history. For one thing we find the 
ascription of magic power to words and names. The power 
of words, says Budge, was thought to be practically un- 
limited, and "the Egyptians invoked their aid in the smallest 
as well as in the greatest events of their life." ^ Words 
might be spoken, in which case they "must be uttered in a 
proper tone of voice by a duly qualified man," or they might 
be written, in which case the material upon which they were 
written might be of importance.^ In speaking of mortuary 
magic we have already noted the employment of pictures, 
models, mannikins, and other images, figures, and objects. 
Wax figures were also used in sorcery,^ and amulets are 
found from the first, although their particular forms seem 
to have altered with dififerent periods.^ Scarabs are of 
course the most familiar example. 

Egyptian medicine was full of magic and ritual and 
its therapeusis consisted mainly of "collections of incan- 
tations and weird random mixtures of roots and refuse." ® 
Already we find the recipe and the occult virtue conceptions, 
the elaborate polypharmacy and the accompanying hocus- 
pocus which we shall meet in Pliny and the middle ages. 
The Egyptian doctors used herbs from other countries and 
preferred compound medicines containing a dozen ingredi- 
ents to simple medicines."^ Already we find such magic 

^Breasted (1912), pp. 290-1. 

* Budge, pp. xi, 170-1. 

* Budge, p. 4. 

* Budge, pp. 67-70, yz, 77- 
' Budge, pp. 27-28, 41, 60. 

' From the abstract of a paper 
on The History of Egyptian Medi- 
cine, read by T. Wingate Todd at 
the annual meeting of the Ameri- 

can Historical Association, 1919. 
See also B. Holmes and P. G. 
Kitterman, Medicine in Ancient 
Egypt', the Hieratic Material, 
Cincinnati, 1914, 34 pp., reprinted 
from The Lancet-Clinic. 

' See H. L. Liiring, Die Uber die 
medicinischcn Kenntnisse der al- 
ien Algypter berichtenden Papyri 


log-Jc as that the hair of a black calf will keep one from 
growing gray.^ Already the parts of animals are a favorite 
ingredient in medical compounds, especially those connected 
with the organs of generation, on which account they were 
presumably looked upon as life-giving, or those which were 
recommended mainly by their nastiness and were probably 
thought to expel the demons of disease by their disagreeable 

In ancient Egypt, however, disease seems not to have Demons 
been identified with possession by demons to the extent that disease, 
it was in ancient Assyria and Babylonia. While Breasted 
asserts that "disease was due to hostile spirits and against 
these only magic could avail," ^ Budge contents himself with 
the more cautious statement that there is "good reason for 
thinking that some diseases were attributed to . . . evil 
spirits . , . entering . . . human bodies . . . but the texts 
do not afford much information" ^ on this point. Certainly 
the beliefs in evil spirits and in magic do not always have 
to go together, and magic might be employed against disease 
whether or not it was ascribed to a demon. 

In the case of medicine as in that of religion Breasted Magic 
takes the view that the amount of magic became greater in science- 
the Middle and New Kingdoms than in the Old Kingdom. 
This is true so far as the amount of space occupied by it in 
extant records is concerned. But it would be rash to assume 
that this marks a decline from a more rational and scientific 
attitude in the Old Kingdom. Yet Breasted rather gives 
this impression when he writes concerning the Old Kingdom 
that many of its recipes were useful and rational, that 
"medicine was already in the possession of much empirical 
wisdom, displaying close and accurate observation," and 
that what "precluded any progress toward real science was 
the belief in magic, which later began to dominate all the 

verglichen mit den medic. Schrif- in Zeitschrift f. cegypt. Sprache, 

ten griech. u. romischer Autoren, XII (1874), p. 106. M. A. Ruffer, 

Leipzig, 1888. Also Joret, I Palaeopathology of Egypt, ig2i. 

(1897) 310-11, and the article ^History of Egypt, p. loi. 

there cited by G. Ebers, Ein Ky- ^ Ibid, p. 102. 

phirecept aus dem Papyrus Ebers, " Budge, p. 206. 







practice of the physician." ^ Berthelot probably places the 
emphasis more correctly when he states that the later medical 
papyri "include traditional recipes, founded on an em- 
piricism which is not always correct, mystic remedies, based 
upon the most bizarre analogies, and magic practices that 
date back to the remotest antiquity." " The recent efforts 
of Sethe and Wilcken, of Elliot Smith, Miiller, and Hooten 
to show that the ancient Egyptians possessed a considerable 
amount of medical knowledge and of surgical and dental 
skill, have been held by Todd to rest on slight and dubious 
evidence. Indeed, some of this evidence seems rather to 
suggest the ritualistic practices still employed by uncivil- 
ized African tribes. Certainly the evidence for any real 
scientific development in ancient Egypt has been very 
meager compared with the abundant indications of the preva- 
lence of magic. ^ 

Early Egypt was the home of many arts and industries, 
but not in so advanced a stage as has sometimes been sug- 
gested. Blown glass, for example, was unknown until late 
Greek and Roman times, and the supposed glass-blowers 
depicted on the early monuments are really smiths engaged 
in stirring their fires by blowing through reeds tipped with 
clay.** On the other hand, Professor Breasted informs me 
that there is no basis for Berthelot's statement that "every 
sort of chemical process as well as medical treatment was 
executed with an accompaniment of religious formulae, of 
prayers and incantations, regarded as essential to the success 
of operations as well as the cure of maladies." ^ 

Alchemy perhaps originated on the one hand from the 
practices of Egyptian goldsmiths and workers in metals, 
who experimented with alloys,^ and on the other hand from 

*Petrie, "Egypt," in EB, p. 7Z- 

* Berthelot (1885), p. 235. See 
E. B. Havell, A Handbook of In- 
dian Art, 1920, p. II, for a com- 
bination of "exact science," ritual, 
and "magic power" in the work 
of the ancient Aryan craftsmen. 

'Berthelot (1889), pp. vi-vii. 

^History of Egypt, p. lOi. 

' Archeologic et Hist aire des 
Sciences, Paris, 1906, pp. 232-3. 

* Professor Breasted, however, 
feels that the contents of the new 
Edwin Smith Papyrus will raise 
our estimate of the worth of Egyp- 
tian medicine and surgery : letter 
to me of Jan. 20, 1922. 


the theories of the Greek philosophers concerning world- 
grounds, first matter, and the elements.^ The words, 
alchemy and chemistry, are derived ultimately from the 
name of Egypt itself, Kamt or Qemt, meaning literally black, 
and applied to the Nile mud. The word was also applied 
to the black powder produced by quicksilver in Egyptian 
metallurgical processes. This powder. Budge says, was sup- 
posed to be the ground of all metals and to possess mar- 
velous virtue, "and was mystically identified with the body 
which Osiris possessed in the underworld, and both were 
thought to be sources of life and power." ^ The analogy to 
the sacrament of the mass and the marvelous powers 
ascribed to the host by medieval preachers like Stephen of 
Bourbon scarcely needs remark. The later writers on 
alchemy in Greek appear to have borrowed signs and phrase- 
ology from the Egyptian priests, and are fond of speaking 
of their art as the monopoly of Egyptian kings and priests 
who carved its secrets on ancient steles and obelisks. In 
a treatise dating from the twelfth dynasty a scribe recom- 
mends to his son a work entitled Chemi, but there is no 
proof that it was concerned with chemistry or alchemy.* 
The papyri containing treatises of alchemy are of the third 
century of the Christian era. 

Evidences of divination in general and of astrology in Divina- 
particular do not appear as early in Egyptian records as astrology, 
examples of other varieties of magic. Yet the early date 
at which Egypt had a calendar suggests astronomical inter- 
est, and even those who deny that seven planets were dis- 
tinguished in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley until the last 
millennium before Christ, admit that they were known in 
Egypt as far back as the Old Kingdom, although they deny 
the existence of a science of astronomy or an art of astrology 
then.^ A dream of Thotmes IV is preserved from 1450 B.C. 
or thereabouts, and the incantations employed by magicians 

'Berthelot (1885), pp. 247-78; E. ''Berthelot (1885), p. 10. 

O.^v. Lippmann (1919), pp. 118-43. •• Lippmann C1919), pp. 181-2, 

Budge, pp. 19-20. and the authorities there cited. 


in order to procure divining dreams for their customers 
attest the close connection of divination and magic.^ BeHef 
in lucky and unlucky days is shown in a papyrus calendar of 
about 1300 B.C.,^ and w^e shall see later that "Egyptian 
Days" continued to be a favorite superstition of the middle 
ages. Tables of the risings of stars which may have an astro- 
logical significance have been found in graves, and there were 
gods for every month, every day of the month, and every 
hour of the day,^ Such numbers as seven and twelve are fre- 
quently emphasized in the tombs and elsewhere, and if the 
vaulted ceiling in the tenth chamber of the tomb of Sethos 
is really of his time, we seem to find the signs of the zodiac 
under the nineteenth dynasty. If Boll is correct in suggest- 
ing that the zodiac originated in the transfer of animal gods 
to the sky,* no fitter place than Egypt could be found for 
the transfer. But there have not yet been discovered in 
Egypt lists of omens and appearances of constellations on 
days of disaster such as are found in the literature of the 
Tigris-Euphrates valley and in the Roman historians. Budge 
speaks of the seven Hathor goddesses who predict the death 
that the infant must some time die, and affirms that "the 
Egyptians believed that a man's fate . . . was decided be- 
fore he was born, and that he had no power to alter it." ^ 
But I cannot agree that "we have good reason for assigning 
the birthplace of the horoscope to Egypt," ® since the evidence 
seems to be limited to the almost medieval Pseudo-Callis- 
thenes and a Greek horoscope in the British Museum to which 
is attached the letter of an astrologer urging his pupil to 
study the ancient Egyptians carefully. The later Greek and 
Latin tradition that astrology was the invention of the divine 
men of Egypt and Babylon probably has a basis of fact, but 
more contemporary evidence is needed if Egypt is to contest 
the claim of Babylon to precedence in that art. 

^ Budge, pp. 214-5. Annales du service des antiquites 

* Budge, pp. 225-8; Wiedemann dc I'Egyptc, I (1900), 79-90. 

(1905), p. g. *F. Boll in Neue Jahrb. (1908), 

•Wiedemann (1905), pp. 7,8,11. p. 108. 

See also G. Daressy, Une ancienne " Budge, pp. 222-3. 

liste des decans egyptiens, in " Budge, p. 229. 



In the written remains of Babylonian and Assyrian 
civilization ^ the magic cuneiform tablets play a large part 
and give us the impression that fear of demons v^as a lead- 
ing feature of Assyrian and Babylonian religion and that 
daily thought and life were constantly affected by magic. 
The bulk of the religious and magical texts are preserved in 
the library of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria from 668 to 
626 B.C. But he collected his library from the ancient 
temple cities, the scribes tell us that they are copying very 
ancient texts, and the Sumerian language is still largely 
employed.^ Eridu, one of the main centers of early Su- 
merian culture, "was an immemorial home of ancient wis- 
dom, that is to say, magic." ^ It is, however, difficult in 
the library of Assurbanipal to distinguish what is Baby- 
lonian from what is Assyrian or what is Sumerian from 
vvhat is .Semitic. Thus we are told that "with the exception 
of some very ancient texts, the Sumerian literature, con- 
sisting largely of religious material such as hymns and 
incantations, shows a number of Semitic loanwords and 
grammatical Semitisms, and in many cases, although not 
always, is quite patently a translation of Semitic ideas by 
Semitic priests into the formal religious Sumerian lan- 
guage." 4 

The chief point in dispute, over which great controversy 
has taken place recently among German scholars, is as to 
the antiquity of both astronomical knowledge and astrologi- 
cal doctrine, including astral theology, among the dwellers 
in the Tigris-Euphrates region. Briefly, such writers as 
Winckler, Stiicken, and Jeremias held that the religion of 
the early Babylonians was largely based on astrology and 
that all their thought was permeated by it, and that they 
had probably by an early date made astronomical observa- 
tions and acquired astronomical knowledge which was lost 

* Some works on the subject of ^Thompson, Semitic Magic, pp. 

magic and religion, astronomy and xxxvi-xxxvii ; Fossey, pp. 17-20. 
astrology in Babylonia and ^ Farnell, Greece and Babylon, 

Assyria will be found in Appendix p. 102. 

I at the close of this chapter. ■* Prince, "Sumer and Sumeri- 

ans," in EB. 


sources for 
and Baby- 


or Chal- 



The num- 
ber seven 
in early 

in the decline of their culture. Opposing this view, such 
scholars as Kugler, Bezold, Boll, and Schiaparelli have 
shown the lack of certain evidence for either any consid- 
erable astronomical knowledge or astrological theory in the 
Tigris-Euphrates Valley until the late appearance of the 
Chaldeans. It is even denied that the seven planets were 
distinguished in the early period, much less the signs of the 
zodiac or the planetary week,^ which last, together with any 
real advance in astronomy, is reserved for the Hellenistic 

Yet the prominence of the number seven in myth, re- 
ligion, and magic is indisputable in the third millennium 
before our era. For instance, in the old Babylonian epic of 
creation there are seven winds, seven spirits of storms, seven 
evil diseases, seven divisions of the underworld closed by 
seven doors, seven zones of the upper world and sky, and 
so on. We are told, however, that the staged towers of 
Babylonia, which are said to have symbolized for millen- 
niums the sacred Hebdomad, did not always have seven 
stages.^ But the number seven was undoubtedly of frequent 
occurrence, of a sacred and mystic character, and virtue and 
perfection were ascribed to it. And no one has succeeded 
in giving any satisfactory explanation for this other than 
the rule of the seven planets over our world. This also 
applies to the sanctity of the number seven in the Old Testa- 
ment ^ and the emphasis upon it in Hesiod, the Odyssey, 
and other early Greek sources.^ 

anthrop. Gesellsch. in Wien, XXI 
(1901), 225-74; see also Hehn, 
Sieben::ahl und Sabbat bei den 

^Webster, Rest Days, pp. 215-22, 
with further bibliography. See 
Orr (1913), 28-38, for an inter- 
esting discussion in English of the 
problem of the origin of solar and 
lunar zodiac. 

"Lippmann (1919), pp. 168-9. 

* Although Schiaparelli, Astron- 
omy in the Old Testament, 1905, 
PP- V, 5, 49-51. 135, denies that 
"the frequent use of the number 
seven in the Old Testament is in 
any way connected with the plan- 
ets." I have not seen F. von 
Andrian, Die Sicbenzahl im Geis- 
tesleben der Volker, in Mittcil. d. 

Babyloniern und im alien Testa- 
ment, 1907. J. G. Frazer (1918), 
I, 140, has an interesting passage 
on the prominence of the number 
seven "alike in the Jehovistic and 
in the Babylonian narrative" of 
the flood. 

* Webster, Rest Days, pp. 211-2. 
Professor Webster, who kindly 
read this chapter in manuscript, 
stated in a letter to me of 2 July 
1921 that he remained convinced 
that "the mystic properties as- 



However that may be, the tendency prevaiHng at present 
is to regard astrology as a relatively late development intro- 
duced by the Semitic Chaldeans. Lenormant held that 
writing and magic were a Turanian or Sumerian (Acca- 
dian) contribution to Babylonian civilization, but that 
astronomy and astrology were Semitic innovations. Jas- 
trow thinks that there was slight difference between the 
religion of Assyria and that of Babylonia, and that astral 
theology played a great part in both ; but he grants that the 
older incantation texts are less influenced by this astral 
theology. L. W. King says, "Magic and divination bulk 
largely in the texts recovered, and in their case there is noth- 
ing to suggest an underlying astrological element." ^ 

Whatever its date and origin, the magic literature may 
be classified in three main groups. There are the astrological 
texts in which the stars are looked upon as gods and pre- 
dictions are made especially for the king,^ Then there are 
the tablets connected with other methods of foretelling the 
future, especially liver divination, although interpretation 
of dreams, augury, and divination by mixing oil and water 
were also practiced.^ Fossey has further noted the close 
connection of operative magic with divination among the 
Assyrians, and calls divination "the indispensable auxiliary 
of magic." Many feats of magic imply a precedent knowl- 
edge of the future or begin by consultation of a diviner, 
or a favorable day and hour should be chosen for the magic 

Third, there are the collections of incantations, not how- 
ever those employed by the sorcerers, which were pre- 

cribed to the number seven" can 
only in part be accounted for by 
the seven planets ; "Our Ameri- 
can Indians, for example, hold 
seven in great respect, yet have 
no knowledge of seven planets." 
But it may be noted that the poet- 
philosophers of ancient Peru com- 
posed verses on the subject of as- 
trology, according to Garcilasso 
(cited by W. I. Thomas, Source 
Book for Social Origins, 1909, p. 


* L. W. King, History of Baby- 
lon, 1915, p. 299. 

^Fossey (1902), pp. 2-3. 

' Farnell, Greece and Babylon, 
pp. 301-2. On liver divination see 
Frothingham, "Ancient Oriental- 
ism Unveiled," American Journal 
of Archaeology, XXI (1917) 55, 
187, 313, 420. 

* Fossey, p. 66. 

tion texts 
older than 
the astro- 





A speci- 
men incan- 

sumably illicit and hence not publicly preserved — in an 
incantation which we shall soon quote sorcery is called evil 
and is said to employ "impure things" — but rather defen- 
sive measures against them and exorcisms of evil demons.^ 
But doubtless this counter magic reflects the original pro- 
cedure to a great extent. Inasmuch as diseases generally 
were regarded as due to demons, who had to be exorcized 
by incantations, medicine was simply a branch of magic. 
Evil spirits were also held responsible for disturbances 
in nature, and frequent incantations were thought necessary 
to keep them from upsetting the natural order entirely.^ 
The various incantations are arranged in series of tablets : 
the Maklu or burning, Ti'i or headaches, Asakki marsuti or 
fever, Labartu or hag-demon, and Nis kati or raising of the 
hand. Besides these tablets there are numerous ceremonial 
and medical texts which contain magical practice.^ Also 
hymns of praise and religious epics which at first sight one 
would not classify as mcantations seem to have had their 
magical uses, and Farnell suggests that "a magic origin for 
the practice of theological exegesis may be obscurely 
traced." * Good spirits are represented as employing magic 
and exorcisms against the demons.^ As a last resort when 
good spirits as well as human magic had failed to check the 
demons, the aid might be requisitioned of the god Ea, re- 
garded as the repository of all science and who "alone was 
possessed of the magic secrets by means of which they could 
be conquered and repulsed." ^ 

The incantations themselves show that other factors than 
the power of words entered into the magic, as may be illus- 
trated by quoting one of them. 

"Arise ye great gods, hear my complaint. 
Grant me justice, take cognizance of my condition. 
I have made an image of my sorcerer and sorceress; 

^Fossey, p. i6. * Greece and Babylon, p. 296. 

JLenormant, pp. 35. \f, }58. »Lenormant, pp. 146-7. 

Thompson, Semitic Magic, pp. ' ^^ ^ 

xxxviii-xxxix. ^ Ibid, p. 158. 


I have humbled myself before you and bring to you my 

Because of the evil they have done, 

Of the impure things which they have handled. 

May she die ! Let me live ! 

May her charm, her witchcraft, her sorcery be broken. 

May the plucked sprig of the hinu tree purify me; 

May it release me; may the evil odor of my mouth be 
scattered to the winds. 

May the mashfakal herb which fills the earth cleanse me. 

Before you let me shine like the kankal herb, 

Let me be brilliant and pure as the lardn herb. 

The charm of the sorceress is evil; 

May her words return to her mouth, her tongue be cut off. 

Because of her witchcraft may the gods of night smite her, 

The three watches of the night break her evil charm. 

May her mouth be wax ; her tongue, honey. 

May the word causing my misfortune that she has spoken 
dissolve like wax. 

May the charm she had wound up melt like honey. 

So that her magic knot be cut in twain, her work de- 
stroyed." ^ 

It is evident from this incantation that use was made Materials 
of magic images and knots, and of the properties of trees and 


and herbs. Magic images were made of clay, wax, tallow, employed 

and other substances and were employed in various ways. *" *^^ 

. magic. 

Thus directions are given for making a tallow image of an 
enemy of the king and binding its face with a cord in order 
to deprive the person whom it represents of speech and will- 
power.^ Images were also constructed in order that disease 
demons might be magically transferred into them,^ and 
sometimes the images are slain and buried.^ In the above 
incantation the magic knot was employed only by the sor- 
ceress, but Fossey states that knots were also used as 

^Jastrow, Religion of Babylon 'Ibid., p. 161. 

and Assyria, pp. 283-4. 
* Zimmern, Beitrdge, p. 173. * Fossey, p. 399. 


counter-charms against the demons.^ In the above incan- 
tation the names of herbs were left untranslated and it is 
not possible to say much concerning the pharmacy of the 
Assyrians and Babylonians because of our lack of a lexicon 
for their botanical and mineralogical terminology.^ How- 
ever, from what scholars have been able to translate it 
appears that common rather than rare and outlandish sub- 
stances were the ones most employed. Wine and oil, salt 
and dates, and onions and saliva are the sort of things used. 
There is also evidence of the employment of a magic wand.^ 
Gems and animal substances were used as well as herbs ; all 
sorts of philters were concocted ; and varied rites and cere- 
monies were employed such as ablutions and fumigations. 
In the account of the ark of the Babylonian Noah we are 
told of the magic significance of its various parts; thus the 
mast and cabin ceiling were made of cedar, a wood that 
counteracts sorceries.* 

One remarkable corollary of the so-called Italian Renais- 

?nr!\of' sance or Humanistic movement at the close of the middle 

mric'""" ^ges with its too exclusive glorification of ancient Greece 

"'^^'''' and Rome has been the strange notion that the ancient 

Hellenes were unusually free from magic compared with 

other periods and peoples. It would have been too much to 

claim any such immunity for the primitive Romans, whose 

entire religion was originally little else than magic and whose 

daily life, public and private, was hedged in by superstitious 

observances and fears. But they, too, were supposed to 

have risen later under the influence of Hellenic culture to 

a more enlightened stage,^ only to relapse again into magic 

in the declining empire and middle ages under oriental 

influence. Incidentally let me add that this notion that m 

the past orientals were more superstitious and fond of 

^Fossey, p. 83. , form. 

'Ibid., pp. 89-91. F. Kuchler, ^Lenormant, p. 190- 

Beitrdge sur Kenntnis dcr Assyr.- * Jbid n 159 

Babyl. Median; Texte mit Urn- '',.,, a ;. f^nt^ th^f thev 

schrift, Uebersetzung und Kom- ' So enlightened in fact that they 

menU Leipzig, 1904. treats of spoke with some scorn of th 

twenty facsimile pages of cunei- "levity" and lies of the UrecKS. 



marvels than westerners in the same stage of civilization 
and that the orient must needs be the source of every super- 
stitious cult and romantic tale is a glib assumption which I 
do not intend to make and which our subsequent investiga- 
tion will scarcely substantiate. But to return to the sup- 
posed immunity of the Hellenes from magic; so far has this 
hypothesis been carried that textual critics have repeatedly 
rejected passages as later interpolations or even called entire 
treatises spurious for no other reason than that they seemed 
to them too superstitious for a reputable classical author. 
Even so specialized and recent a student of ancient astrol- 
ogy, superstition, and religion as Cumont still clings to this 
dubious generalization and affirms that "the limpid Hellenic 
genius always turned away from the misty speculations of 
magic." ^ But, as I suggested some sixteen years since, 
"the fantasticalness of medieval science was due to 'the 
clear light of Hellas' as well as to the gloom of the 'dark 
ages, ^ 

It is not difficult to call to mind evidence of the presence 
of magic in Hellenic religion, literature, and history. One 
has only to think of the many marvelous metamorphoses in and 
Greek mythology and of its countless other absurdities; of "*^*°^y' 
the witches, Circe and Medea, and the necromancy of 
Odysseus ; or the priest-magician of Apollo in the Iliad who 
could stop the plague, if he wished ; of the lucky and unlucky 
days and other agricultural magic in Hesiod.^ Then there 
were the Spartans, whose so-called constitution and method 
of education, much admired by the Greek philosophers, were 
largely a retention of the life of the primitive tribe with its 
ritual and taboos. Or we remember Herodotus and his 
childish delight in ambiguous oracles or his tale of seceders 
from Gela brought back by Telines single-handed because 
he "was possessed of certain mysterious visible symbols of 
the powers beneath the earth which were deemed to be of 

^ Oriental Religions in Roman ^ E. E. Sikes, Folk-lore in the 

Paganism, Chicago, 191 1, p. 189. Works and Days of Hesiod. in 

The Classical Review. VII (1893). 
^Thorndike (1905), p. 63. 390. 

in mytli, 



taneous in- 
crease of 
and occult 

Magic ori- 
gin urged 
for Greek 
and drama. 

wonder-working power." ^ We recall Xenophon's punc- 
tilious records of sacrifices, divinations, sneezes, and dreams; 
Nicias, as afraid of eclipses as if he had been a Spartan; and 
the matter-of-fact mentions of charms, philters, and incan- 
tations in even such enlightened writers as Euripides and 
Plato. Among the titles of ancient Greek comedies 
magic is represented by the Goetes of Aristophanes, the 
Mandragorizomene of Alexis, the Pharmacomantis of An- 
axandrides, the Circe of Anaxilas, and the Thettcde of 
Menander.^ When we candidly estimate the significance of 
such evidence as this, we realize that the Hellenes were not 
much less inclined to magic than other peoples and periods, 
and that we need not wait for Theocritus and the Greek 
romances or for the magical papyri for proof of the 
existence of magic in ancient Greek civilization.^ 

If astrology and some other occult sciences do not 
appear in a developed form until the Hellenistic period, it 
is not because the earlier period was more enlightened, but 
because it was less learned. And the magic which Osthanes 
is said to have introduced to the Greek world about the 
time of the Persian wars was not so much an innovation 
as an improvement upon their coarse and ancient rites of 

This magic element which existed from the start in 
Greek culture is now being traced out by students of anthro- 
pology and early religion as well as of the classics. Miss 
Jane E. Harrison, in Themis, a study of the social origins 
of Greek religion, suggests a magical explanation for many 
a myth and festival, and even for the Olympic games and 
Greek drama.^ The last point has been developed in more 

^ Freeman, History of Sicily, I, 
IOI-3, citing Herodotus VII, 153. 

' Butler and Owen, Apulei 
Apologia, note on 30, 30. 

* For details concerning opera- 
tive or vulgar magic among 
the ancient Greeks see Hubert, 
Magia, in Daremberg-Saglio ; Abt, 
Die Apologie dcs Apulcius von 
Madaura und die antike Zau- 
berei, Giessen, 1908; and F. 

B. Jevons, "Grseco-Italian Magic," 
p. 93-, in Anthropology and the 
Classics, ed. R. Marett; and the 
article "Magic" in ERE. 

* I think that this sentence is an 
approximate quotation from some 
ancient author, possibly Diogenes 
Laertius, but I have not been able 
to find it. 

"J. E. Harrison, Themis, Cam- 
bridge, 1912. The chapter head- 


detail by F, M. Comford's Origin of Attic Comedy, where 
much magic is detected masquerading in the comedies of 
Aristophanes.^ And Mr. A. B. Cook sees the magician in 
Zeus, who transforms himself to pursue his amours, and 
contends that "the real prototype of the heavenly weather- 
king was the earthly" magician or rain-maker, that the 
pre-Homeric "fixed epithets" of Zeus retained in the 
Homeric poems "are simply redolent of the magician," and 
that the cult of Zeus Lykaios was connected with the belief 
in werwolves.^ In still more recent publications Dr. Rendel 
Harris ^ has connected Greek gods in their origins with the 
woodpecker and mistletoe, associated the cult of Apollo 
with the medicinal virtues of mice and snakes, and in other 
ways emphasized the importance in early Greek religion and 
culture of the magic properties of animals and herbs. 

These writers have probably pressed their point too far, 
but at least their work serves as a reaction against the old 
attitude of intellectual idolatry of the classics. Their views 
may be offset by those of Mr, Famell, who states that 
"while the knowledge of early Babylonian magic is begin- 
ning to be considerable, we cannot say that we know 
anything definite concerning the practices in this department 
of the Hellenic and adjacent peoples in the early period 
with which we are dealing." And again, "But while Baby- 
lonian magic proclaims itself loudly in the great religious 
literature and highest temple ritual, Greek magic is barely 
mentioned in the older literature of Greece, plays no part 
at all in the hymns, and can only with difficulty be dis- 
covered as latent in the higher ritual. Again, Babylonian 

ings briefly suggest the argument: on Ritual Forms preserved in 

"i. Hymn of the Kouretes ; 2. Greek tragedy; 9. Daimon to 

Dithyramb, Aqco|xevov, and Drama ; Olympian; 10. The Olympians; 

3. Kouretes, Thunder-Rites and 11. Themis." 

Mana ; 4. a. Magic and Tabu, b. ^ F. M. Cornf ord, Origin of 

Medicine-bird and Medicine-king; Attic Comedy, 1914, see especially 

S. Totemism, Sacrament, and Sac- pp. 10, 13, 55, 157, 202, 22,2- 

rifice ; 6. Dithyramb, Spring Fes- ^ A. B. Cook, Zeus, Cambridge, 

tival, and Hagia Triada Sarcoph- 1914, pp. 134-5, 12-14, 66-76. 

agus ; 7. Origin of the Olympic ^ Rendel Harris, Picus who is 

Games (about a year-daimon) ; 8. also Zeus, 1916; The Ascent of 

Daimon and Hero, with Excursus Olympus, 1917. 


magic is essentially demoniac ; but we have no evidence that 
the pre-Homeric Greek was demon-ridden, or that demon- 
ology and exorcism were leading factors in his consciousness 
and practice." Even Mr. Farnell admits, however, that 
"the earliest Hellene, as the later, was fully sensitive to the 
magico-divine efficacy of names." ^ Now to believe in the 
power of names before one believes in the existence of 
demons is the best possible evidence of the antiquity of 
magic in a society, since it indicates that the speaker has 
confidence in the operative power of his own words without 
any spiritual or divine assistance. 
Magic in Moreover, in one sense the advocates of Greek magic 

Greek phi- \^2JVQ. not gone far enough. They hold that magic lies back 
of the comedies of Aristophanes; what they might contend 
is that it was also contemporary with them.^ They hold 
that classical Greek religion had its origins in magic ; what 
they might argue is that Greek philosophy never freed 
itself from magic. "That Empedocles believed himself 
capable of magical powers is," says Zeller, "proved by his 
own writings." He himself "declares that he possesses the 
power to heal old age and sickness, to raise and calm the 
winds, to summon rain and drought, and to recall the 
dead to life." ^ H the pre-Homeric fixed epithets of 
Zeus are redolent of magic, Plato's Timaeus is equally redo- 
lent of occult science and astrology; and if we see the 
weather-making magician in the Olympian Zeus of Phidias, 
we cannot explain away the vagaries of the Timaeus as 
flights of poetic imagination or try to make out Aristotle 
a modern scientist by mutilating the text of the History of 

' Farnell, Greece and Babylon, Ancients, in Folk-lore, 1890, and 

pp. 292, lyS-g. E. H. Klatsche, The Supernatural 

' See Ernest Riess, Superstitions in the Tragedies of Euripides, in 

and Popular Beliefs in Greek University of Nebraska Studies, 

Tragedy, in Transactions of the 1919. 

American Philological Associa- ' See Zeller, Pre-Socratic Phi- 
tion, vol. 27 (1896), pp. 5-34; and losophy, II (1881), 119-20, for fur- 
On Ancient superstition, ibid. 26 ther boasts by Empedocles himself 
(1895), 40-55. Also J. G. Frazer, and other marvels attributed to 
Some Popular Superstitions of the him by later authors. 


Toward magic so-called Plato's attitude in his Laws is Plato's 
cautious. He maintains that medical men and prophets and ^ttitude 
diviners can alone understand the nature of poisons (or magic and 
spells) which work naturally, and of such things as incan- ^^^^^ °^^* 
tations, magic knots, and wax images; and that since other 
men have no certain knowledge of such matters, they ought 
not to fear but to despise them. He admits nevertheless 
that there is no use in trying to convince most men of this 
and that it is necessary to legislate against sorcery.^ Yet 
his own view of nature seems impregnated, if not actually 
with doctrines borrowed from the Magi of the east, at least 
with notions cognate to those of magic rather than of 
modern science and with doctrines favorable to astrology. 
He humanized material objects and confused material and 
spiritual characteristics. He also, like authors of whom 
we shall treat later, attempted to give a natural or rational 
explanation for magic, accounting, for example, for liver 
divination on the ground that the liver was a sort of mirror 
on which the thoughts of the mind fell and in which the 
images of the soul were reflected ; but that they ceased after 
death.^ He spoke of harmonious love between the elements 
as the source of health and plenty for vegetation, beasts, 
and men, and their "wanton love" as the cause of pestilence 
and disease. To understand both varieties of love "in rela- 
tion to the revolutions of the heavenly bodies and the 
seasons of the year is termed astronomy," ^ or, as we should 
say, astrology, whose fundamental law is the control of 
inferior creation by the motion of the stars. Plato spoke 
of the stars as "divine and eternal animals, ever abiding," * 
an expression which we shall hear reiterated in the middle 
ages. "The lower gods," whom he largely identified with 
the heavenly bodies, form men, who, if they live good lives, 
return after death each to a happy existence in his proper 
star.^ Such a doctrine is not identical with that of nativities 

^Laws, XI, 933 (Steph.). * Timaeus, p. 40 (Steph.) ; Jow- 

'Timacus, p. 71 (Steph.). ett, III, 459. 
'Symposium, p. 188 (Steph.) ; 

in Jowett's translation, I, 558. ^ Ibid., pp. 41-42 (Steph.). 



on stars 
and spirits. 

in the 
History of 

and the horoscope, but hke it exalts the importance of the 
stars and suggests their control of human life. And when 
at the close of his Republic Plato speaks of the harmony or 
music of the spheres of the seven planets and the eighth 
sphere of the fixed stars, and of "the spindle of Necessity 
on which all the revolutions turn," he suggests that when 
once the human soul has entered upon this life, its destiny 
is henceforth subject to the courses of the stars. When in 
the Timaeiis he says, "There is no difficulty in seeing that 
the perfect number of time fulfills the perfect year when all 
the eight revolutions . . . are accomplished together and 
attain their completion at the same time," ^ he seems to 
suggest the astrological doctrine of the magnns annus, that 
history begins to repeat itself in every detail when the 
heavenly bodies have all regained their original positions. 

For Aristotle, too, the stars were "beings of superhuman 
intelligence, incorporate deities. They appeared to him as 
the purer forms, those more like the deity, and from them 
a purposive rational influence upon the lower life of the 
earth seemed to proceed, — a thought which became the root 
of medieval astrology." ^ Moreover, "his theory of the 
subordinate gods of the spheres of the planets . . . pro- 
vided for a later demonology." ^ 

Aside from bits of physiognomy and of Pythagorean 
superstition, or mysticism, Aristotle's History of Animals 
contains much on the influence of the stars on animal life, 
the medicines employed by animals, and their friendships 
and enmities, and other folklore and pseudo-science.* But 

^ Timaeus, p. 39 (Steph.) ; 
Jowett, III, 458. 

'W. Windelband, History of 
Philosophy, English translation by 
J. H. Tufts, 1898, p. 147. 

'Windelband, History of An- 
cient Philosophy, English transla- 
tion by H. E. Cushman, 1899. 

■Tor a number of examples, 
which might be considerably mul- 
tiplied if books VII-X are not 

rejected as spurious, see Thorn- 
dike (1905), pp. 62-3. T. E. 
Lones, Aristotle's Researches in 
Natural Science, London, 1912, 
274 pp., discusses "Aristotle's 
method of investigating the natu- 
ral sciences," and a large number 
of Aristotle's specific statements 
showing whether they were cor- 
rect or incorrect. The best trans- 
lation of the History of Animals 
is by D'Arcy W. Thompson, Ox- 
ford 1910, with valuable notes. 


the oldest extant manuscript of that work dates only from 

the twelfth or thirteenth century and lacks the tenth book. 

Editors of the text have also rejected books seven and nine, 

the latter part of book eight, and have questioned various 

other passages. However, these expurgations save the face 

of Aristotle rather than of Hellenic science or philosophy 

generally, as the spurious seventh book is held to be drawn 

largely from Hippocratic writings and the ninth from 


There is another point to be kept in mind in any com- Differing 

parison of Egypt and Babylon or Assyria with Greece in "lodes 

the matter of magic. Our evidence proving the great part mission of 

played by magic in the ancient oriental civilizations comes oriemal 

directly from them to us without intervening tampering or and Greek 
• -1 r 1 1 • 1 T^ literature. 

alteration except m the case of the early periods. But 
classical literature and philosophy come to us as edited by 
Alexandrian librarians ^ and philologers, as censored and 
selected by Christian and Byzantine readers, as copied or 
translated by medieval monks and Italian humanists. And 
the question is not merely, what have they added ? but also, 
what have they altered? what have they rejected? Instead 
of questioning superstitious passages in extant works on 
the ground that they are later interpolations, it would very 
likely be more to the point to insert a goodly number on 
the ground that they have been omitted as pagan or idola- 
trous superstitions. 

Suppose we turn to those writings which have been j^Qj-e 
unearthed just as they were in ancient Greek; to the papyri, i^agical 
the lead tablets, the so-called Gnostic gems. How does the of directly 
proportion of magic in these compare with that in the Qreek"'^^^^ 
indirectly transmitted literary remains? If it is objected remains. 
that the magic papyri ^ are mainly of late date and that 

* See the edition of the History the Hbrary of Assurbanipal. 
of Animals by Dittmeyer (1907), 'A list of magic papyri and of 
p. vii, where various monographs publications up to about 1900 deal- 
will be found mentioned. ing with the same is given in 

^ Perhaps pure literature was Hubert's article on Magia in 

over-emphasized in the Museum Daremberg-Saglio, pp. 1503-4. See 

at Alexandria, and magic texts in also Sir Herbert Thompson and 


they are found in Egypt, it may be replied that they are 
as old as or older than any other manuscripts we have of 
classical literature and that its chief store-house, too, was 
in Egypt at Alexandria, As for the magical curses written 
on lead tablets,^ they date from the fourth centur}' before 
our era to the sixth after, and fourteen come from Athens 
and sixteen from Cnidus as against one from Alexandria 
and eleven from Carthage. And although some display 
extreme illiteracy, others are written by persons of rank 
and education. And what a wealth of astrological manu- 
scripts in the Greek language has been unearthed in Euro- 
pean libraries by the editors of the Catalogus Codicum 
Graecoriini Astrologorum! ^ And occasionally archaeolo- 
gists report the discovery of magical apparatus ^ or of repre- 
sentations of magic in works of art. 
Progress In thus contending that Hellenic culture was not free 

among"he from magic and that even the philosophy and science of the 
Greeks. ancient Greeks show traces of superstition, I would not, how- 
ever, obscure the fact that of extant literary remains the 
Greek are the first to present us with any very considerable 
body either of systematic rational speculation or of classified 
collection of observed facts concerning nature. Despite the 
rapid progress in recent years in knowledge of prehistoric 
man and Egyptian and Babylonian civilization, the Hellenic 

F. L. Griffith, The Magical De- lent, Defixionum tabulae, etc., 

motic Papyrus of London and Paris, 1904, 568 pp. R. Wiinsch, 

Leiden, 3 vols., 1909-1921; Cata- Defixionum Tabcllae Atficae, iSgy, 

logue of Demotic Papyri in the and Scthianische I'crfiuchungsta- 

Jolin Rylands Library, Manch^s- feln aus Rom (390-420 A.D.), 

ter, zvitii facsimiles and complete Leipzig, 1898. 

translations, 1909, 3 vols. Grenfell ,„• or. • 1 

(1921), p. 159, says, "A corpus of Since 1898 various volumes 

the magical papyri was projected ^"^ ^^l^.^ have appeared under the 

in Germany by K. Preisendanz ^ditorship of Cuinont Kroll Boll, 

before the war, and a Czech Ohvieri. Bassi and others Much 

scholar, Dr. Hopfner, is engaged ^^ ^he material noted is of course 

upon the difficult task of eluci- POst-classical and Byzantine, and 

dating them " °^ Christian authorship or Ara- 

' W. C. Battle, Magical Curses ^'^ °"Sin. 

Written on Lead Tablets, in ' For example, see R. Wiinsch, 

Transactions of the American Antikcs Zaubergcrdt aus Per- 

Philological Association, XXVI gamou, in Jahrb. d. kaiserl. 

(1895), pp. liv-lviii, a synopsis of deutsch. archccol. Instit., suppl. VI 

a Harvard dissertation. Audol- (1905), p. 19. 


title to the primacy in philosophy and science has hardly 
been called in question, and no earlier works have been 
discovered that can compare in medicine with those ascribed 
to Hippocrates, in biology with those of Aristotle and 
Theophrastus, or in mathematics and physics with those of 
Euclid and Archimedes. Undoubtedly such men and writ- 
ings had their predecessors, probably they owed something 
to ancient oriental civilization, but, taking them as we have 
them, they seem to be marked by great original power. 
Whatever may lie concealed beneath the surface of the past, 
or whatever signs or hints of scientific investigation and 
knowledge we may think we can detect and read between 
the lines, as it were, in other phases of older civilizations, 
in these works solid beginnings of experimental and mathe- 
matical science stand unmistakably forth. 

"An extraordinarily large proportion of the subject Archime- 
matter of the writings of Archimedes," says Heath, "repre- Aristotle 
sents entirely new discoveries of his own. Though his 
range of subjects was almost encyclopaedic, embracing 
geometry (plane and solid), arithmetic, mechanics, hydro- 
statics and astronomy, he was no compiler, no writer of 
text-books. . . . His objective is always some new thing, 
some definite addition to the sum of knowledge, and his com- 
plete originality cannot fail to strike anyone who reads his 
works intelligently, without any corroborative evidence such 
as is found in the introductory letters prefixed to most of 
them. ... In some of his subjects Archimedes had no fore- 
runners, e. g., in hydrostatics, where he invented the whole 
science, and (so far as mathematical demonstration was 
concerned) in his mechanical investigations." ^ Aristotle's 
History of Animals is still highly esteemed by historians of 
biology ^ and often evidences "a large amount of personal 

^T. L. Heath, The Works of Aristotle's Researches in Natural 

Archimedes, Cambridge, 1897, pp. Science, London, 1912. Professor 

xxxix-xl. W. A. Locy, author of Biology 

^ On "Aristotle as a Biologist" and Its Makers, writes me (May- 
see the Herbert Spencer lecture by 9, 1921) that in his opinion G. H. 
D'Arcy W. Thompson, Oxford, Lewes, Aristotle; a Chapter from 
1913. 31 pp. Also T. E. Lones, the History of Science, London, 



ated view 
of the 
ment of 
the Hellen- 
istic age. 

observations," ^ "great accuracy," and "minute inquiry," as 
in his account of the vascular system ^ or observations on 
the embryology of the chick.^ "Most wonderful of all, 
perhaps, are those portions of his book in which he speaks of 
fishes, their diversities, their structure, their wanderings, and 
their food. Here we may read of fishes that have only 
recently been rediscovered, of structures only lately reinves- 
tigated, of habits only of late made known." ^ But of the 
achievements of Hellenic philosophy and Hellenistic science 
the reader may be safely assumed already to have some 

But in closing this brief preliminary sketch of the period 
before our investigation proper begins, I would take excep- 
tion to the tendency, prevalent especially among German 
scholars, to center in and confine to Aristotle and the 
Hellenistic age almost all progress in natural science made 
before modern times. The contributions of the Egyptians 
and Babylonians are reduced to a minimum on the one hand, 
while on the other the scientific writings of the Roman 

1864, "dwells too much on Aris- 
totle's errors and imperfections, 
and in several instances omits the 
quotation of important positive 
observations, occurring in the 
chapters from which he makes his 
quotations of errors." Professor 
Locy also disagrees with Lewes' 
estimate of De generatione as 
Aristotle's masterpiece and thinks 
that "naturalists will get more 
satisfaction out of reading the 
Historia animalium" than either 
the De generatione or De partihus. 
Thompson (1913), p. 14, calls 
Aristotle "a very great naturalist." 

^ This quotation is from Pro- 
fessor Locy's letter of May 9, 
192 1. 

^ The quotations are from a note 
by Professor D'Arcy W. Thomp- 
son on his translation of the 
Historia animalium, III, 3. The 
note gives so good a glimpse of 
both the merits and defects of the 
Aristotelian text as it has reached 
us that I will quote it here more 

"The Aristotelian account of the 
vascular system is remarkable for 
its wealth of details, for its great 
accuracy in many particulars, and 
for its extreme obscurity in others. 
It is so far true to nature that it 
is clear evidence of minute in- 
quiry, but here and there so 
remote from fact as to suggest 
that things once seen have been 
half forgotten, or that supersti- 
tion was in conflict with the result 
of observation. The account of 
the vessels connecting the left arm 
with the liver and the right with 
the spleen ... is a surviving ex- 
ample of mystical or superstitious 
belief. It is possible that the 
ascription of three chambers to 
the heart was also influenced by 
tradition or mysticism, much in 
the same way as Plato's notion of 
the three corporeal faculties." 

* Professor Locy called my at- 
tention to it in a letter of May 17, 
1921. See also Thompson (1913), 
p. 14. 

* Thompson (1913), p. 19. 


Empire, which are extant in far greater abundance than 
those of the Hellenistic period, are regarded as inferior imita- 
tions of great authors whose works are not extant; Posi- 
donius, for example, to whom it has been the fashion of the 
writers of German dissertations to attribute this, that, and 
every theory in later writers. But it is contrary to the law 
of gradual and painful acquisition of scientific knowledge 
and improvement of scientific method that one period of a 
few centuries should thus have discovered everything. We 
have disputed the similar notion of a golden age of early 
Egyptian science from which the Middle and New King- 
doms declined, and have not held that either the Egyptians 
or Babylonians had made great advances in science before 
the Greeks. But that is not saying that they had not made 
some advance. As Professor Karpinski has recently written: 
"To deny to Babylon, to Egypt, and to India, their part 
in the development of science and scientific thinking is to 
defy the testimony of the ancients, supported by the dis- 
coveries of the modern authorities. The efforts which have 
been made to ascribe to Greek influence the science of Egypt, 
of later Babylon, of India, and that of the Arabs do not 
add to the glory that was Greece. How could the Baby- 
lonians of the golden age of Greece or the Hindus, a little 
later, have taken over the developments of Greek astron- 
omy? This would only have been possible if they had 
arrived at a state of development in astronomy which would 
have enabled them properly to estimate and appreciate the 
work which was to be absorbed. . . . The admission that 
the Greek astronomy immediately affected the astronomical 
theories of India carries with it the implication that this 
science had attained somewhat the same level in India as in 
Greece. Without serious questioning we may assume that 
a fundamental part of the science of Babylon and Egypt 
and India, developed during the times which we think of as 
Greek, was indigenous science." ^ 

*L. C. Karpinski, "Hindu Science," in The American Mathematical 
Monthly, XXVI (1919), 298-300. 


Nor am I ready to admit that the great scientists of the 
early Roman Empire merely copied from, or were distinctly 
inferior to, their Hellenistic predecessors. Aristarchus may 
have held the heliocentric theory ^ but Ptolemy must have 
been an abler scientist and have supported his incorrect 
hypothesis with more accurate measurements and calcula- 
tions or the ancients would have adopted the sounder view. 
And if Herophilus had really demonstrated the circulation 
of the blood, so keen an intelligence as Galen's would not 
have cast his discovery aside. And if Ptolemy copied 
Hipparchus, are we to imagine that Hipparchus copied from 
no one? But of the incessant tradition from authority to 
authority and yet of the gradual accumulation of new matter 
from personal observation and experience our ensuing sur- 
vey of thirteen centuries of thought and writing will afford 
more detailed illustration. 

* Sir Thomas Heath, Aristar- the fixed stars remain unmoved 

chus of Samos, the Ancient and that the earth revolves round 

Copernicus: a history of Greek the sun in the circumference of a 

astronomy to Aristarchus to- circle." Such evidence seems 

gether with Aristarchus's treatise, scarcely to warrant applying the 

"On the Sizes and Distances of title of "The Ancient Copernicus" 

the Sun and Moon," a new Greek to Aristarchus. And Heath 

text with translation and notes, thinks that Schiaparelli (/ precur- 

Oxford, 1913, admits that "our sori di Copernico nell' antichita, 

treatise does not contain any sug- and other papers) went too far 

gestion of any but the geocentric in ascribing the Copernican hy- 

view of the universe, whereas pothesis to Heraclides of Pontus. 

Archimedes tells us that Aristar- On Aristotle's answer to Pythag- 

chus wrote a book of hypotheses, oreans who denied the geocentric 

one of which was that the sun and theory see Orr (1913), pp. 100-2. 



The following books deal expressly with the magic of 
Assyria and Babylonia : 

Fossey, C. La magie assyrienne; etude suivie de textes magiques, 
Paris, 1902. 

King, L. W. Babylonian Magic and Sorcery, being "The Prayers 
of the Lifting of the Hand," London, 1896. 

Laurent, A. La magie et la divination chez les Chaldeo-Assyr- 
iens, Paris, 1894. 

Lenormant, F, Chaldean Magic and Sorcery, English transla- 
tion, London, 1878. 

Schwab, M., in Proc. Bibl. Archaeology (1890), pp. 292-342, on 
magic bowls from Assyria and Babylonia. 

Tallquist, K. L. Die Assyrische Beschworungsserie Maqlu, Leip- 
zig, 1895- 

Thompson, R. C. The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers 
of Nineveh and Babylon in the British Museum, London, 1900. 
Texts and translations — all but three are astrological. 
The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia, London, 1904. 
Semitic Magic, London, 1908. 

Weber, O. Damonenbeschworung bei den Babyloniern und As- 
sy rern, 1906. Eine Skizze (37 pp.), in Der Alte Orient. 

Zimmern. Die Beschwdrungstafeln Surpu. 

Much concerning magic will also be found in works on 
Babylonian and Assyrian religion. 

Craig, J. A. Assyrian and Babylonian Religious Texts, Leipzig, 

Curtiss, S. L Primitive Semitic Religion Today, 1902. 
Dhorme, P. Choix des textes religieux Assyriens Babyloniens, 


La religion Assyro-Babylonienne, Paris, 1910. 
Gray, C. D. The Samas Religious Texts. 



Jastrow, Morris, The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, Boston, 

1898. Revised and enlarged as Religion Babyloniens und As- 

syriens, Giessen, 1904. 
Jeremias. Babylon. Assyr. Vorstellungen von dem Leben nach 

Tode, Leipzig, 1887. 

Holle und Paradies, and other w^orks. 
Knudtzon, J. A. Assyrische Gebete an den Sonnengott, Leipzig, 

Lagrange, M. J. £tudes sur les religions semitiques, Paris, 1905. 
Langdon, S, Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms, Paris, 1909. 
Reisner, G. A. Sumerisch-Babylonische Hymnen, Berlin, 1896. 
Robertson Smith, W. Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, 

London, 1907. 
Roscher, Lexicon, for various articles. 
Zimmern. Babylonische Hymnen und Gebete in Auswahl, 32 pp., 

1905 (Der Alte Orient). 

Beitrage zur Kenntniss der Babyl. Religion, Leipzig, 1901. 

On the astronomy and astrology of the Babylonians one 
may consult: 

Bezold, C. Astronomic, Himmelschau und Astrallehre bei den 

Babyloniern. (Sitzb. Akad. Heidelberg, 191 1, Abh. 2). 
Boissier. A. Documents assyriens relatifs aux presages, Paris, 

I 894- I 897. 

Choix de textes relatifs a la divination assyro-babylonienne, 

Geneva, 1905-1906. 
Craig, J. A. Astrological-Astronomical Texts, Leipzig, 1892. 
Cumont, F. Babylon und die griechische Astrologie. (Neue 

Jahrb. fiir das klass. Altertum, XXVH, 1911). 
Epping, J., and Strassmeier, J. N. Astronomisches aus Babylon, 

Ginzel, F. K. Die astronomischen Kentnisse der Babylonier, 1901. 
Hehn, J. Siebenzahl und Sabbat bei den Babyloniern und im 

Alten Testament, 1907. 
Jensen, P. Kosmologie der Babylonier, 1890, 
Jeremias. Das Alter der babylonischen Astronomic, 1908. 

Handbuch der altorientalischen Geisteskultur, 1913. 
Kugler, F. X. Die Babylonische Mondrechnung, 1900. 

Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Freiburg, 1907-1913. To 

be completed in four vols. 

Im Bannkreis Babels, 1910. 
Oppert, J. Die astronomischen Angaben der assyrischen Keilin- 


schriften, in Sitzb. d. Wien. Akad. Math.-Nat. Classe, 1885, pp. 


Un texte Babylonien astronomique et sa traduction grecque par 

CI. Ptolemee, in Zeitsch. f. Assyriol. VI (1891), pp. 103-23. 

Sayce, A. H. The astronomy and astrology of the Babylonians, 
with translations of the tablets relating to the subject, in Trans- 
actions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, III (1874), 145- 
339; the first and until recently the best guide to the subject. 

Schiaparelli, G. V. I Primordi ed i Progress! dell' Astronomia 
presso i Babilonesi, Bologna, 1908. 
Astronomy in the Old Testament, 1905. 

Stiicken, Astralmythen, 1896-1907. 

Virolleaud, Ch. L'Astrologie chaldeenne, Paris, 1905- ; to be 
completed in eight parts, texts and translations. 

Winckler, Himmels- und Weltenbild der Babylonier als Grundlage 
der Weltanschauung und Mythologie aller Volker, in Der alte 
Orient, III, 2-3. 



Chapter 2. Pliny's Natural History. 

I. Its place in the history of science. 

II. Its experimental tendency. 

III. Pliny's account of magic. 

IV. The science of the Magi. 

V. Pliny's magical science. 

" 3. Seneca and Ptolemy : Natural Divination and 

" 4. Galen. 

I. The man and his times. 

II. His medicine and experimental science. 

III. His attitude toward magic. 

" 5. Ancient Applied Science and Magic. 

" 6. Plutarch's Essays. 

" 7. Apuleius of Madaura. 

" 8. Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana. 

" 9. Literary and Philosophical Attacks upon 

" 10. The Spurious Mystic Writings of Hermes, 

Orpheus, and Zoroaster. 
" II. Neo-Platonism and its Relations to Astrology 

and Theurgy. 
** 12. Aelian, Solinus, and Horapollo. 




A TRIO of great names, Pliny, Galen, and Ptolemy, stand out A trio of 
above all others in the history of science under the Roman names. 
Empire. In the use or criticism which they make of earlier 
writers and investigators they are also our chief sources for 
the science of the preceding Hellenistic period. By their 
voluminousness, their generous scope in ground covered, and 
their broad, liberal, personal outlooks, they have painted, in 
colors for the most part imperishable, extensive canvasses 
of the scientific spirit and acquisitions of their own time. 
Pliny pursued politics and literature as well as natural sci- 
ence; Ptolemy was at once mathematician, astronomer, 
physicist, and geographer; Galen knew philosophy as well 
as medicine. The two latter men, moreover, made original 
contributions of their own of the very first order to scientific 
knowledge and method. It is characteristic of the homo- 
geneous and widespread culture of the Roman Empire that 
these three representatives of different, although overlap- 
ping, fields of science were natives of the three continents 
that enclose the Mediterranean Sea. Pliny was bom at Como 
where Italy verges on transalpine lands ; Ptolemy, born some- 
where in Egypt, did his work at Alexandria; Galen came 
from Pergamum in Asia Minor. Finally, these men were, 
after Aristotle, the three ancient scientists who directly or 
indirectly most powerfully influenced the middle ages. Thus 
they illuminate past, present, and future. 

We shall therefore open the present section of our in- plan of 
vestigation by considering in turn chronologically, Pliny, 
Ptolemy, and Galen, coupling, however, with our considera- 
tion of Ptolemy the work of Seneca on Natural Questions 




which shows the same combination of natural science and 
natural divination. Next we shall consider some representa- 
tives of ancient applied science and its relations to magic, and 
the more miscellaneous writings of Plutarch, Apuleius, and 
Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana. From the hos- 
pitable attitude toward magic and occult science displayed by 
these last writers we sha'' then turn back again to consider 
some examples of literary and philosophical attacks upon 
superstition, before proceeding lastly to spurious mystic 
writings of the Roman Empire, Neo-Platonism and its re- 
lations to astrology and theurgy, and the works of Aelian, 
Solinus, and Horapollo. 


pliny's natural history 

I, Its Place in the History of Science 

Its importance in our investigation — As a collection of miscellaneous 
information — As a repository of ancient natural science — As a source 
for magic — Pliny's career — His writings — His own description of the 
Natural History — His devotion to science — Conflict of science and 
religion — Pliny not a trained naturalist — His use of authorities — His 
lack of arrangement and classification — His scepticism and credulity 
— A guide to ancient science — His medieval influence — Early printed 

II. Its Experimental Tendency 

Importance of observation and experience — Use of the word experi- 
mentum — Experiments due to scientific curiosity — Medical experimenta- 
tion — Chance experience and divine revelation — Marvels proved by 

III. Pliny's Account of Magic 

Oriental origin of magic — Its spread to the Greeks — Its spread out- 
side the Graeco-Roman world — Failure to understand its true origin — 
Magic and divination — Magic and religion — Magic and medicine — Magic 
and philosophy — Falseness of magic — Crimes of magic — Pliny's censure 
of magic is mainly intellectual — Vagueness of Pliny's scepticism — Magic 
and science indistinguishable. 

IV. The Sf-ience of the Magi 

Magicians as investigators of nature — The Magi on herbs — Marvel- 
ous virtues of herbs — Animals and parts of animals — Further instances 
— Magic rites with animals and parts of animals — Marvels wrought 
with parts of animals — The Magi on stones — Other magical recipe* 
— Summary of the statements of the Magi. 

V. Pliny's Magical Science 

From the Magi to Pliny's magic — Habits of animals — Remedies dis- 
covered by animals — Jealousy of animals — Occult virtues of animals — 
The virtues of herbs— Plucking herbs — Agricultural magic— Virtue of 
stones — Other minerals and metals — Virtues of human parts— Virtues 




of human saliva— The human operator— Absence of medical compounds 
— Sympathetic magic — Antipathies between animals — Love and hatred 
between inanimate objects — Sympathy between animate and inanimate 
objects— Like cures like— The principle of association — Magic transfer 
of disease— Amulets— Position or direction— The time element— Ob- 
servance of number — Relation between operator and patient — Incanta- 
tions — Attitude towards love-charms and birth control — Pliny and 
astrology — Celestial portents — The stars and the world of nature — 
Astrological medicine — Conclusion : magic unity of Pliny's superstitions. 

''Salve, parens rerum omnium Natura, teque nobis 
Quiritium solis celehratam esse numeris omnibus tuis fave!" 
— Closing words of the Natural History} 

I. Its Place in the History of Science 

We should have to search long before finding a better start- 
ing-point for the consideration of the union of magic with 
the science of the Roman Empire, and of the way in which 
that union influenced the middle ages, than Pliny's Natural 
History} The foregoing sentence, with which years ago 
I opened a chapter on the Natural History of Pliny the 
Elder in my briefer preliminary study of magic in the intel- 
lectual history of the Roman Empire, seems as true as 
ever; and although I there considered his confusion of magic 
and science at some length, I do not see how I can make the 
present work well-rounded and complete without including 
in it a yet more detailed analysis of the contents of Pliny's 

Pliny's Natural History, which appeared about yy A. D. 
and is dedicated to the Emperor Titus, is perhaps the most 

which is superior to both the Ger- 
man editions in its explanatory 
notes and subject index, and which 
also apparently antedates them 
in some readings suggested for 
doubtful passages in the text. 
Three modes of dividing the 
Natural History into chapters are 
indicated in the editions of Janus 
and Detlefsen. I shall employ 
that found in the earlier editions 
of Hardouin, Valpy, Lemaire, and 
Ajasson, and preferred in the 
English translation of Bostock 
and Riley. 

* "Farewell, Nature, parent of 
all things, and in thy manifold 
multiplicity bless me who, alone 
of the Romans, has sung thy 

' For the Latin text of the 
Naturalis Historia I have used the 
editions of D. Detlefsen, Berlin, 
1866-1882, and L. Janus, Leipzig, 
1870, 6 vols, in 3 ; 5 vols, in 3. 
There is, however, a good English 
translation of the Natural History, 
with an introductory essay, by 
J. Bostock and H. T. Riley, Lon- 
don, 1855, 6 vols. (Bohn Library), 


important single source extant for the history of ancient 
civilization. Its thirty-seven books, written in a very com- 
pact style, constitute a vast collection of the most miscel- 
laneous information. Whether one is investigating ancient 
painting, sculpture, and other fine arts ; or the geography of 
the Roman Empire; or Roman triumphs, gladiatorial con- 
tests, and theatrical exhibitions; or the industrial processes 
of antiquity; or Mediterranean trade; or Italian agriculture; 
or mining in ancient Spain; or the history of Roman coin- 
age; or the fluctuation of prices in antiquity; or the Roman 
attitude towards usury; or the pagan attitude towards im- 
mortality ; or the nature of ancient beverages ; or the relig- 
ious usages of the ancient Romans ; or any of a number of 
other topics ; one will find something concerning all of them 
in Pliny, He is apt both to depict such conditions in his 
own time and to trace them back to their origins. Further- 
more he repeats many detailed incidents of interest to the 
political or narrative historian of Rome as well as to the 
student of the economic, social, artistic, and religious life of 
antiquity. Probably there is no place where an isolated point 
is more likely to be run down by the investigator, and it is 
regrettable that exhaustive analytical indices of the work 
are not available. We may add that, although the work is 
supposedly a collection of facts, Pliny contrives to introduce 
many moral reflections and sharp comments on the luxury, 
vice, and unintellectual character of his times, suggesting 
Juvenal's picture of degenerate Roman society and his own 
lofty moral standards. 

Indeed, Pliny's title, Naturalis Historia, or at least the ^g ^ 
common English translation of it, "Natural History," has repository 

, . . . , ,. . , . , , 1,1 of ancient 

been criticized as too limited m scope, and the work has been natural 
described as "rather a vast encyclopedia of ancient knowl- science. 
edge and belief upon almost every known subject." ^ 
Pliny himself mentions in his preface the Greek word 
"encyclopedia" as indicative of his scope. Nevertheless, his 
work is primarily an account of nature rather than of civili- 
*Bostock and Riley (1855), I, xvi. 


zation, and much of its information concerning such mat- 
ters as the arts and business is incidental. Most of its books 
bear such titles as Aquatic Animals, Exotic Trees, Medi- 
cines from Forest Trees, The Natures of Metals. After an 
introductory book containing the preface and a table of con- 
tents and lists of authorities for each of the subsequent 
books, the second book treats of the universe, heavenly 
bodies, meteorology, and the chief changes, such as earth- 
quakes and tides, in the land and water forming the earth's 
surface. After four books devoted to geography, the sev- 
enth deals with man and human inventions. Four more fol- 
low on terrestrial and aquatic animals, birds, and insects. 
Sixteen more are concerned with plants, trees, vines, and 
other vegetation, and the medicinal simples derived from 
them. Five books discuss the medicinal simples derived 
from animals, including the human body; and the last five 
books treat of metals and minerals and the arts in which 
they are employed. It is thus evident that in the main Pliny 
is concerned with natural science, and that, if his work is a 
mine of miscellaneous historical information, it should even 
more prove a rich treasure-house — "quoniam, ut ait Do- 
mitius Piso, thesauros oportet esse non libros" ^ — for an in- 
vestigation concerned as intimately as is ours with the his- 
tory of science. 

The Natural History is a great storehouse of misinfor- 
mation as well as of information, for Pliny's credulity and 
lack of discrimination harvested the tares of legend and 
magic along with the wheat of historical fact and ancient 
science in his voluminous granary. This may put other his- 
torical investigators upon their guard in accepting its state- 
ments, but only increases its value for our purpose. Per- 
haps it is even more valuable as a collection of ancient er- 
rors than it is as a repository of ancient science. It touches 
upon many of the varieties, and illustrates most of the char- 
acteristics, of magic. Moreover, Pliny often mentions the 
Magi or magicians and discusses "magic" expressly at some 

*NH. Preface. 


length in the opening chapters of his thirtieth book — one of 
the most important passages on the theme in any ancient 

PHny the Elder, as we learn from his own statements in Piin/s 
the Natural History and from one or two letters concerning ^^^^c"*- 
him written by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, whom he 
adopted, went through the usual military, forensic, and offi- 
cial career of the Roman of good family, and spent his life 
largely in the service of the emperors. He visited vari- 
ous Mediterranean lands, such as Spain, Africa, Greece, and 
Egypt, and fought in Germany. He was in charge of 
the Roman fleet on the west coast of Italy when he met his 
death at the age of fifty-six by suffocation as he was trying 
to rescue others from the fumes and vapors from the erup- 
tion of Mount Vesuvius. 

Of Pliny's writings the Natural History is alone extant. His 
but other titles have been preserved which serve to show his writings, 
great literary industry and the extent of his interests. He 
wrote on the use of the javelin by cavalry, a life of his 
friend Pomponius, an account in twenty books of all the 
wars waged by the Romans in Germany, a rather long work 
on oratory called The Student, a grammatical or philo- 
logical work in eight books entitled De dubio sermone, and 
a continuation of the History of Aufidius Bassus in thirty- 
one books. Yet in the dedication of the Natural History to 
the emperor Titus he states that his days were taken up with 
official business and only his nights were free for literary 
labor. This statement is supported by a letter of his nephew 
telling how he used to study by candle-light both late at 
night and before daybreak. Pliny the Younger narrates sev- 
eral incidents to illustrate how jealous and economical of 
every spare moment his uncle was. He would dictate or 
have books read to him while lying down or in the bath, and 
on journeys a secretary was always by his side with books 
and tablets. If the weather was very cold, the amanuensis 
wore gloves so that his hands might not become too numb 
to write. Pliny always took notes on what he read, and at 




his death left his nephew one hundred and sixty notebooks 
written in a small hand on both sides. 
His own Such were the conditions under which, and the methods 

description ^y which, Pliny compiled his encyclopedia on nature. No 
Natural single writer either Greek or Latin, he tells us, had ever be- 
fore attempted so extensive a task. He adds that he treats 
of some twenty thousand topics gleaned from the perusal of 
about two thousand volumes by one hundred authors.^ 
Judging from his bibliographies and citations, however, he 
would seem to have utilized more than one hundred au- 
thors. But possibly he had not read all the writers men- 
tioned in his bibliographies. He affirms that previous stu- 
dents have had access to but few of the volumes which he 
has used, and that he adds many things unknown to his 
ancient authorities and recently discovered. Occasionally 
he shows an acquaintance with beliefs and practices of the 
Gauls and Druids. Thus his work assumes to be something 
more tlian a compilation from other books. He says, how- 
ever, that no doubt he has omitted much, since he is only 
human and has had many other demands upon his time. He 
admits that his subject is dry (sterilis materia) and does not 
lend itself to literary exhibitions, nor include matters stimu- 
lating to write about and pleasant to read about, like 
speeches and marvelous occurrences and varied incidents. 
Nor does it permit purity and elegance of diction, since one 
must at times employ the terminology of rustics, foreigners, 
and even barbarians. Furthermore, "it is an arduous task 
to give novelty to what is ancient, authority to what is new, 
interest to what is obsolete, light to what is obscure, charm 
to what is loathsome" — as many of his medicinal simples 
undoubtedly are — "credit to what is dubious." 

It is a great comfort to Pliny, however, in his immense 
task, when many laugh at him as wasting his time over 
worthless trifles, to reflect that he is being spurned along 
with Nature.^ In another passage ^ he contrasts the blood 

His devo 
tion to 

NH, Preface. 

NH, xxn, 7. 

NH, n, 6. 


and slaug'hter of military history with the benefits bestowed 
upon mankind by astronomers. In a third passage ^ he 
looks back regretfully at the widespread interest in science 
among the Greeks, although those were times of political 
disunion and strife and although communication between 
different lands was interrupted by piracy as well as war, 
whereas now, with the whole empire at peace, not only is 
no new scientific inquiry undertaken, but men do not even 
thoroughly study the works of the ancients, and are intent 
on the acquisition of lucre rather than learning. These and 
other passages which might be cited attest Pliny's devotion 
to science. 

In Pliny we also detect signs of the conflict between Conflict. 
science and religion. In a single chapter on God he says ^"^^ 
pretty much all that the church fathers later repeated at religion, 
much greater length against paganism and polytheism. But 
his discussion would hardly satisfy a Christian. He asserts 
that "it is God for man to aid his fellow man,- and this is 
the path to eternal glory," but he turns this noble sentiment 
to justify deification of the emperors who have done so much 
for mankind. He questions whether God is concerned with 
human affairs; slyly suggests that if so, God must be too 
busy to punish all crimes promptly; and points out that 
there are some things which God cannot do. He cannot 
commit suicide as men can, nor alter past events, nor make 
twice ten anything else than twenty. Pliny then concludes : 
"By which is revealed in no uncertain wise the power of 
Nature, and that is what we call God." In many other pas- 
sages he exclaims at Nature's benignity or providence. He 
believed that the soul had no separate existence from the 
body, ^ and that after death there was no more sense left in 
body or soul than was there before birth. The hope of per- 
sonal immortality he scorned as "puerile ravings" produced 
by the fear of death, and he believed still less in the possibility 
of any resurrection of the body. In short, natural law, me- 

NH, II, 46. iuvare mortalem. . , ." 

'NH, II, 5. "Deus est mortali ' NH, VII, 56. 


chanical force, and facts capable of scientific investigation 
would seem to be all that he will admit and to suffice to 
satisfy his strong intellect. Yet we shall later find him hav- 
ing the greatest difficulty in distinguishing between science 
and magic, and giving credence to many details in science 
which seem to us quite as superstitious as the pagan beliefs 
concerning the gods which he rejected. But if any reader 
is inclined to belittle Pliny for this, let him first stop and 
think how Pliny would ridicule some modern scientists for 
their religious beliefs, or for their spiritualism or psychic re- 
Pliny not It is desirable, however, to form some estimate of Pliny's 

naturalfst. fitness for his task in order to judge how accurate a picture 
of ancient science his work is. He does not seem to have 
had much detailed training or experience in the natural sci- 
ences himself. He writes not as a naturalist who has ob- 
served widely and profoundly the phenomena and opera- 
tions of nature, but as an omnivorous reader and volumin- 
ous note-taker who owes his knowledge largely to books or 
hearsay, although occasionally he says "I know" instead of 
**they say," or gives the results of his own observation and 
experience. In the main he is not a scientist himself but 
only a historian of science or nature; after all, his title, 
Natural History, is a very fitting one. The question, of 
course, arises whether he has sufficient scientific training to 
evaluate properly the work of the past. Has he read the 
best authors, has he noted their best passages, has he under- 
stood their meaning? Does he repeat inferior theories and 
omit the correcter views of certain Alexandrian scientists? 
These questions are hard to answer. On his behalf it may 
be said that he deals little with abstruse scientific theory and 
mainly with simple substances and geographical places, mat- 
ters in which it seems difficult for him to go far astray. 
Scientific specialists were not numerous in those days, any- 
way, and science had not yet so far advanced and ramified 
that one man might not hope to cover the entire field and 
do it substantial justice. Pliny the Younger was perhaps 




a partial judge, but he described the Natural History as "a 
work remarkable for its comprehensiveness and erudition, 
and not less varied than Nature herself." ^ 

One thing in Pliny's favor as a compiler, besides his per- His use of 
sonal industry, unflagging interest, and apparently abundant 
supply of clerical assistance, is his full and honest statement 
of his authorities, although he adds that he has caught many 
authors transcribing others verbatim v^ithout acknowledg- 
ment. He has, however, great admiration for many of his 
authorities, exclaiming more than once at the care and dili- 
gence of the men of the past who have left nothing untried 
or unexperienced, from trackless mountain tops to the roots 
of herbs.^ Sometimes, nevertheless, he disputes their as- 
sertions. For instance, Hippocrates said that the appear- 
ance of jaundice on the seventh day in fever is a fatal sign, 
"but we know some who have lived even after this." ^ Pliny 
also scolds Sophocles for his falsehoods concerning amber.* 
It may seem surprising that he should expect strict scientific 
truth from a dramatic poet, but Pliny, like many medieval 
writers, seems to regard poets as good scientific authorities. 
In another passage he accepts Sophocles' statement that a 
certain plant is poisonous, rather than the contrary view of 
other writers, saying "the authority of so prominent a man 
moves me against their opinions." ^ He also cites Menander 
concerning fish and, like almost all the ancients, regards 
Homer as an authority on all matters.^ Pliny sometimes 
cites the works of King Juba of Numidia, than whom there 
hardly seems to have been a greater liar in antiquity.'^ He 
stated among other things in a work which he wrote for 
Gains Caesar, the son of Augustus, that a whale six hun- 
dred feet long and three hundred and sixty feet broad had 

♦Letter to Macer, Ep. Ill, 5, ed. ''Yet C. W. King, Natural His- 

Keil. Leipzig, 1896. tory of Precious Stones, p. 2, de- 

'NH, Vn, i; XXIII, 60; XXV, plores the loss of Juba's treatise, 

I ; XXVII, I. which he says, "considering his 

*XXVI, 76. position and opportunities for 

*XXXVlI, II. exact information, is perhaps the 

•XXI, 88. greatest we have to deplore in 

•XXXII, 24. this sad catalogue of desiderata." 




lack of 
ment and 



entered a river in Arabia.^ But where should Pliny turn 
for sober truth ? The Stoic Chrysippus prated of amulets ; ^ 
treatises ascribed to the great philosophers Democritus and 
Pythagoras ^ were full of magic; and in the works of Cicero 
he read of a man who could see for a distance of one hun- 
dred and thirty-five miles, and in Varro that this man, stand- 
ing on a Sicilian promontory, could count the number of 
ships sailing out of the harbor of Carthage.* 

The Natural History has been criticized as poorly ar- 
ranged and lacking in scientific classification, but this is a 
criticism which can be made of many works of the classi- 
cal period. Their presentation is apt to be rambling and 
discursive rather than logical and systematic. Even Aris- 
totle's History of Animals is described by Lewes ^ as un- 
classified in its arrangement and careless in its selection of 
material. I have often thought that the scholastic centuries 
did mankind at least one service, that of teaching lecturers 
and writers how to arrange their material. Pliny seems 
rather in advance of his times in supplying full tables of 
contents for the busy emperor's convenience. Valerius So- 
ranus seems to have been the only previous Roman writer to 
do this. One indication of haste in composition and failure 
to sift and compare his material is the fact that Pliny some- 
times makes or includes contradictory statements, probably 
taken from different authorities. On the other hand, he not 
infrequently alludes to previous passages in his own work, 
thus showing that he has his material fairly well in hand. 

Pliny once said that there was no book so bad but what 
some good might be got from it,® and to the modern reader 
he seems almost incredibly credulous and indiscriminate in 

*NH. xxxn, 4. 

*XXX, 30. 

' Bouche-Leclercq (1899), p. 
519, notes, however, that Aulus 
Gellius (X, 12) protested against 
Pliny's credulity in accepting such 
works as genuine and that "Colu- 
melle (VH, 5) cite un certain 
Bolus de Mendes comme I'auteur 
des vTOfiinifjLaTa attribucs a Dcmoc- 

rite." Bouche-Leclercq adds, how- 
ever, "Rien n'y fit: Democrite 
devint le grand docteur de Ut 

'NH, vn, 21. 

'G. H. Lewes, Aristotle; a 
Chapter from the History of 
Science, London. 1864. 

* Letters of Pliny the Younger, 
in, 5, ed. Keil, Leipzig, 1896. 


his selection of material, and to lack any standard of judg- 
ment between the true and the false. Yet he often assumes 
an air of scepticism and censures others sharply for their 
credulity or exaggeration. " 'Tis strange," he remarks 
a propos of some tales of men transformed into wolves for 
nine or ten years, "how far Greek credulity has gone. No 
lie is so impudent that it lacks a voucher." ^ Once he ex- 
presses his determination to include only those points on 
which his authorities are in agreement.^ 

On the whole, while to us to-day the Natural History a guide tc 
seems a disorderly and indiscriminate conglomeration of ^"j^^^"g 
fact and fiction, its defects are probably to a great extent 
those of its age and of the writers from whom it has bor- 
rowed. If it does not reflect the highest achievements and 
clearest thinking of the best scientists of antiquity — and be 
it said that there are a number of the Hellenistic age of 
whom we should know less than we do but for Pliny — it 
probably is a fairly faithful epitome of science and error 
concerning nature in his own time and the centuries pre- 
ceding. At any rate it is the best portrayal that has reached 
us. From it we can get our background of the confusion 
of magic and science in the Hellenistic age, and then reveal 
against this setting the development of them both in the 
course of the Roman Empire and middle ages. Pliny gives 
so many items upon each point, and is so much fuller than 
the average ancient or medieval book of science, that he 
serves as a reference book, being the likeliest place to look 
to find duplicated some statement concerning nature by a 
later writer. This of course shows that such a statement 
did not originate with the later writer, but is not a sure sign 
that he copied from Pliny ; they may both have used the same 
authorities, as seems the case with Greek authors later in the 
empire who probably did not know of Pliny's work. 

In the middle ages, however, Pliny had an undoubted His 
direct influence.^ Manuscripts of the Natural History are h^fluence. 

*NH, VIII, 34. des Plinius im Mittelalter, in 

* XXVIII, I. ^ Sitsh. Bayer. Akad. Philos-Philol. 

*Ruck. Die Naturalis Historia Classe (1908) pp. 203-318. For 



numerous, although in a scarcely legible condition owing to 
corrections and emendations which enhance the obscurity of 
the text and perhaps do Pliny grave injustice in other re- 
spects.^ Also many manuscripts contain only a few books 
or fragments of the text, so that it is possible that many 
medieval scholars knew their Pliny only in part.^ This, 
however, can scarcely be argued from their failure to in- 
clude more from him in their own works; for that might 
be due to their knowing the Natural History so well that 
they took its contents for granted and tried to include other 
material in their own works. In a later chapter we shall treat 
of The Medicine of Pliny, a treatise derived from the Nat- 
ural History. Pliny's phrase rerum natura figures as the 
title of several medieval encyclopedias of somewhat similar 
scope. And his own name was too well known in the middle 
ages to escape having a work on the philosopher's stone 
ascribed to him.^ 

citations of Pliny by writers of 
the late Roman empire and early 
middle ages, see Panckoucke, 
Bibliotheque Latin e -Frang aise , vol. 

^Concerning the MSS see Det- 
lefsen's prefaces in each of his 
first five volumes and his fuller 
dissertations in Jahn's Neue Jahrb., 
77, 653ff, Rhein. Mus., XV, 265ff; 
XVIII, 227ff, 327. 

Detlefsen seems to have made 
no use of English MSS, but a 
folio of the close of the 12th cen- 
tury at New College, Oxford, 
contains the first nineteen books 
of the Natural History and is 
described by Coxe as "very well 
written and preserved." 

Nor does Detlefsen mention Le 
Mans 263, I2th century, containing 
all 37 books except that the last 
book is incomplete, and with a full 
page miniature (fol. lov) show- 
ing Pliny in the act of presenting 
his work to Vespasian. Escorial 
Q-I-4 and R-I-5 are two other 
practically complete texts of the 
fourteenth century which Detlef- 
sen failed to use. 

'See M. R. James, Eton Manu- 
scripts, p. 63, MS 134, Bl. 4. 7., 

Roberti Crikeladensis Prioris Ox- 
oniensis excerpta ex Plinii His- 
toria Naturali, 12- 13th century, 
in a large English hand, giving 
extracts extending from Book II 
to Book IX. 

Of Balliol 124, fols. 1-138, Cos- 
mographia mundi, by John Free, 
born at Bristol or London, fellow 
at Balliol College, Oxford, later 
professor of medicine at Padua 
and a doctor at Rome, also well 
instructed in civil law and Greek, 
Coxe writes, "This work is noth- 
ing but a series of excerpts from 
Pliny's Natural History, beginning 
with the second and leaving off 
with the twentieth." I wonder if 
John Free may not have used the 
very MS of the first nineteen 
books mentioned in the foregoing 
note, since the second book of the 
Natural History is often reckoned 
as the first. 

In Balliol 146A, 15th century, 
fol. 3-, the Natural History ap- 
pears in epitome, with a prologue 
opening, "I, Reginald (Retinal- 
dus), servant of Christ, perusing 
the books of Pliny . . ." 

* Bologna, 952, 15th century, 
fols. 157-60, "Tractatus optimus in 


That the Natural History was well known as a whole at Early 
least by the close of the middle ages is shown by the numer- ^^|"^q^^ 
ous editions, some of them magnificently printed, which 
were turned off from the Italian presses immediately after 
the invention of printing. In the Magliabechian Library 
of Florence alone are editions printed at Venice in 1469 and 
1472, at Rome in 1473 and Parma in 1481, again at Venice 
in 1487, 1 49 1, and 1499, not to mention Italian translations 
which appeared at Venice in 1476 and 1489.^ These edi- 
tions were accompanied by some published criticism of 
Pliny's statements, since in 1492 appeared at Ferrara a treat- 
ise On the Errors of Pliny and Others in Medicine by Nich- 
olas Leonicenus of Vicenza with a dedication to Politian.^ 
But two years later PHny found a defender in Pandulph 

But Pliny's future influence will come out repeatedly in 
later chapters. We shall now inquire, first, what signs of 
experimental science he shows, either derived from the past 
or added by himself. Second, what he defines as magic and 
what he has to say about it. Third, how much of what he 
supposes to be natural science must we regard as essentially 
magic ? 

II. Its Experimental Tendency 

It is probably only a coincidence that two medieval manu- impor- 
scripts close the Natural History in the midst of the seventy- t^^ce of 
sixth chapter of the last book with the words, "Experimenta tion and 
plurihus modis constant . . . Primum pondere/' ^ But al- gnce^'' 
though from the very nature of his work Pliny makes ex- 
tensive use of authorities, he not infrequently manifests a 
realization, as one dealing with the facts of nature should, of 
the importance of observation and experience as means of 

quo exposuit et aperte declaravlt ana Florentiae adservantur, 1793- 

plinius philosophus quid sit lapis 1795, II, 374-81. 

philosophicus et ex qua materia 'De erroribus Plinii et aliorum 

debet fieri et quomodo." in medicina, Ferrara, 1492. 

* Fossi, Catalogus codicum ' Pliniana dcfensio, 1494. 

saeculo XV itnpressorum qtd in * Escorial Q-I-4, and R-I-S, both 

publico Bibliotheca Magliabechi- of the 14th century. 


reaching the truth. The claims of many Romans of high 
rank to have carried their arms as far as Mount Atlas, which 
Pliny declares has been repeatedly shown by experience to 
be most fallacious, leads him to the further reflection that 
nowhere is a lapse of one's credulity easier than where a 
dignified author supports a false statement.^ In other pas- 
sages he calls experience the best teacher in all things,^ and 
contrasts unfavorably garrulity of words and sitting in 
schools with going to solitudes and seeking herbs at their 
appropriate seasons. That upon our globe the land is en- 
tirely surrounded by water does not require, he says, inves- 
tigation by arguments, but is now known by experience.^ 
And if the salamander really extinguished fire, it would have 
been tried at Rome long ago.^ On the other hand, we find 
some assertions in the Natural History which Pliny might 
easily have tested himself and found false, such as his state- 
ment that an egg-shell cannot be broken by force or any 
weight unless it is tipped a little to one side.^ Sometimes he 
gives his personal experience,® but also mentions experience 
in many other connections. 
Use of The word employed most of the time by Pliny to denote 

the word experience is experimentum? In many passages the word 
mentum. does not indicate anything like a purposive, prearranged, 
scientific experiment in our sense of that word, but simply 
the ordinary experience of daily life.® We are also told 
what experti,^ or men of experience, advise. In a number of 
passages, however, experimentum is used in a sense some- 

*NH, V, I, 12. 41; VII, 56; VIII, 7; XIV, 8; 

*XXVI, 6, "usu efficacissimo XVI, i ; XVI, 64; XVII, 2; XVII, 

rerum omnium magistro" ; XVII, 35; XXII, i; XXII, 43; XXII, 

2, 12, "quare experimentis optime 49! XXII, 51; XXV, 7; XXXIV, 

creditur." 39 and 51. Experience is also the 

3 jj 65 idea in the two following passages, 

*XXIX 2'? although the word experimentum 

*XXTx' TT could not smoothly be rendered as 

4f;i;:[f'' • „ ,. „ "experience" in a literal transla- 

-^ XXV 54, cora-mque nobis ; ^^^^. yn, 50, "Accedunt experi- 

XXV, 106, 'nos earn Romanis ex- ^^^^^ ^^ exempla recentissimi 

penmentis per usus digeremus. census . . ." ; XXVIII, 45, "Nee 

' Sometimes another term, as uros aut bisontes habuerunt Graeci 

usus in note 2 above, is employed. in experimentis." 

"See II. 41, 1-2; II, 108; VII, "XVI, 24; XXII, 57; XXVI, 60. 


what more closely approaching our "experiment." These are 
cases where something is being tested. For instance, a 
method of determining whether an tgg is fresh or rotten by 
putting it in water and watching if it floats or sinks is called 
an experimentiim} That horses would whinny at no other 
painting of a horse than that by Apelles is spoken of as illius 
cxperimentum artis, a test of, or testimony to, his art." The 
expression religionis experimento is applied to a religious 
test or ordeal by which the virginity of Claudia was vindi- 
cated,^ The word is also used of ways of telling if unguents 
are good^ and if wine is beginning to tum;^ and of various 
tests of the genuineness of drugs, gems, earths, and metals.®" 
It is also twice used of letting down a lighted lamp into a 
huge wine cask or into wells to discover if there is danger at 
the bottom from noxious vapors.''^ If the lamp was ex- 
tinguished, it was a sign of peril to human life. Pliny fur- 
ther suggests purposive experimentation in speaking of 
experimenta to discover water under ground ^ and in graft- 
ing trees. ^ 

Most of the tests and experiences thus far mentioned Experi- 
have been practical operations connected with husbandry and ^^^"clen-^ 

industry. But Pliny recounts one or two others which seem *'^.^ ^u"- 

to have been dictated solely by scientific curiosity. He classi- 
fies the following as experimenta: ^° the sinking of a well to 
prove by its complete illumination that the sun casts no 
shadow at noon of the summer solstice; the marking of a 
dolphin's tail in order to throw some light upon its length 
of life, should it ever be captured again, as it was three 
hundred years later — perhaps the experiment of longest 
duration on record; ^^ and the casting of a man into a pit of 

* X, 75. 22 and 76 ; such phrases as sinceri 

XXXV, 30. experimentiim and vcri experi- 

VII, 35. mentum are used for "test o£ 

XIII, 3. genuineness." 

'XIV. 25. 'XXIII, 31; XXXI, 28. 

' XVII, 4 ; XX, 3 and 76 ; XXII, « XXXI, 27. 

23; XXIX, 12; XXXIII, 19 and « XVII. 26. 

43 and 44 and 57; XXXIV, 26 and '" II, 75. 

48 : XXXVI, 38 and 55 ; XXXVII, " IX, 7. 




and divine 

serpents at Rome to determine if he was really immune from 
their stings.^ 

Experimentum is employed by Pliny in a medical sense 
which becomes very common in the middle ages. He calls 
some remedies for toothache and inflamed eyes certa experi- 
menta — sure experiences.^ Later experimentum came to be 
applied to almost any recipe or remedy. Pliny, indeed, 
speaks of the doctors as learning at our risk and getting 
experience through our deaths.^ In another passage he 
states more favorably that "there is no end to experimenting 
with everything so that even poisons are forced to cure us." * 
He also briefly mentions the medical sect of Empirics, of 
whom we shall hear more from Galen. He says that they 
so name themselves from experiences ^ and originated at 
Agrigentum in Sicily under Acron and Empedocles. 

Pliny is puzzled how some things which he finds stated 
in "authors famous for wisdom" were ever learned by ex- 
perience, for example, that the star-fish has such fiery fervor 
that it burns everything in the sea which it touches, and di- 
gests its food instantly.® That adamant can be broken only 
by goat's blood he thinks must have been divinely revealed, 
for it would hardly have been discovered by chance, and he 
cannot imagine that anyone would ever have thought of 
testing a substance of immense value in a fluid of one of the 
foulest of animals. ''^ In several other passages he suggests 
chance, accident, dreams,® or divine revelation as the ways 
in which the medicinal virtues of certain simples were dis- 
covered. Recently, for example, it was discovered that the 
root of the wild rose is a remedy for hydrophobia by the 
mother of a soldier in the praetorian guard, who was warned 
* XXVIII, 6. 

'XXVIII, 14. 

•XXIX, 8. "Discunt periculis 
nostris et experimenta per mortes 
agunt." Bostock and Riley trans- 
late the last clause, "And they ex- 
perimentalize by putting us to 
death." Another possible transla- 
tion is, "And their experiments 
cost lives." 

*XXV, 17. ". . . adeo nullo 
omnia experiendi fine ut cogeren- 
tur etiam venena prodesse." 

'XXIX, 4 "... ab experimen- 
tis se cognominans empiricen." 

• IX, 86. 
'XXXVII, 15. 

* According to Galen, as we shall 
hear later, the Empirics relied a 
good deal upon chance experience 
and dreams. 


in a dream to send her son this root, which cured him and 
many others who have tried it since. ^ And a soldier in 
Pompey's time accidentally discovered a cure for elephan- 
tiasis when he hid his face for shame in some wild mint 
leaves.^ Another herb was accidentally found to be a cure 
for disorders of the spleen when the entrails of a sacrificial 
victim happened to be thrown on it and it entirely consumed 
the milt.^ The healing properties of vinegar for the sting 
of the asp were discovered by chance in this wise. A man 
who was stung by an asp while carrying a leather bottle of 
vinegar noticed that he felt the sting only when he set the 
bottle down.* He therefore decided to try the effects of a 
drink of the liquid and was thereby fully cured.^ Other 
remedies are learned through the experience of rustics and 
illiterate persons, and yet others may be discovered by ob- 
serving animals who cure their ills by them,*' Pliny's opinion 
is that the animals have hit upon them by chance. 

Pliny represents a number of marvelous and to us in- Marvels 
credible things as proved by experience. Divination from gxperi- 
thunder, for instance, is supported by innumerable experi- ence. 
ences, public and private. In two passages out of the three 
mentioning experti which I cited above, those experienced 
persons recommended a decidedly magical sort of procedure.'^ 
In another passage "the experience of many" supports "a 
strange observance" in plucking a bud.^ A fourth bit of 
magical procedure is called "marvelous but easily tested." * 
Thus the transition is an easy one from signs of experimen- 
tal science in the Natural History to our next topic, Pliny's 
account of magic. 

^ XXV, 6. mouth, it will prevent one from 

' XX, 52. feeling the heat in the baths. 

" XXV, 20. ' XXV, 6 and 21 and 50 ; XXVII, 

* XXIII, 27. 2. 

"Among other virtues of vine- 'XVI, 24; XXVI, 60. 

gar, besides its supposed property * XXIII, 59. 

of breaking rocks, Pliny mentions * XXVIII, 7. 
that if one holds some in the 


III. Pliny's Account of Magic. 

Oriental Pliny supplies some account of the origin and spread of 

magic. magic ^ but a rather confused and possibly unreliable one, as 

he mentions two Zoroasters separated by an interval of five 
or six thousand years, and two Osthaneses, one of whom 
accompanied Xerxes, and the other Alexander, in their re- 
spective expeditions. He says, indeed, that it is not clear 
whether one or two Zoroasters existed. In any case magic 
has flourished greatly the world over for many centuries, 
and was founded in Persia by Zoroaster. Some other ma- 
gicians of Media, Babylonia, and Assyria are mere names to 
Pliny; later he mentions others like Apollobeches and Dar- 
danus. Although he thus derives magic from the orient, he 
appears to make no distinction, as we shall find other writers 
doing, between the Magi of Persia and ordinary magicians, 
nor does he employ the word magic in two senses. He makes 
it evident, however, that there have been other men who have 
regarded magic more favorably than he does. 

Its spread Pliny next traces the spread of magic among the Greeks. 

Greeks. -^^ marvels at the lack of it in the Iliad and the abundance 
of it in the Odyssey. He is uncertain whether to class Or- 
pheus as a magician, and mentions Thessaly as famous for 
its witches at least as early as the time of Menander who 
named one of his comedies after them. But he regards the 
Osthanes who accompanied Xerxes as the prime introducer 
of magic to the Greek-speaking world, which straightway 
went mad over it. In order to learn more of it, the philos- 
ophers Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, and Plato 
went into distant exile and on their return disseminated their 
lore. Pliny regards the works of Democritus as the greatest 
single factor in that dissemination of the doctrines of magic 
which occurred at about the same time that medicine was 
being developed by the works of Hippocrates. Some 

* In the opening chapters of Book XXX, unless otherwise indicated by- 
specific citation. 


regarded the books on magic ascribed to Democritus as 
spurious, but Pliny insists that they are genuine.^ 

Outside of the Greek-speaking world, whence of course Its spread 
magic spread to Rome, Pliny mentions Jewish magic, repre- Qraeco- 
sented by such names as Moses, Tannes, and Lotapes. But Roman 

-1 • • 1 TT 1 world. 

he holds that magic did not originate among the Hebrews 
until long after Zoroaster. He also speaks of the magic of 
Cyprus; of the Druids, who were the magicians, diviners, 
and medicine men of Gaul until the emperor Tiberius sup- 
pressed them ; and of distant Britain. ^ Thus discordant na- 
tions and even those ignorant of one another's existence 
agree the world over in their devotion to magic. From what 
Pliny tells us elsewhere of the Scythians we can see that the 
nomads of the Russian steppes and Turkestan were devoted 
to magic too. 

It has been shown that Pliny regarded magic as a mass Failure 
of doctrines formulated by a single founder and not as a stand its' 
gradual social evolution, just as the Greeks and Romans as- true origin. 
cribed their laws and customs to some single legislator. He 
admits in a way, however, the great antiquity claimed by 
magic for itself, although he questions how the bulky dicta 
of Zoroaster and Dardanus could have been handed down by 
memory during so long a period. This remark again shows 
how little he thinks of magic as a set of social customs and 
attitudes perpetuated through constant and universal prac- 
tice from generation to generation. Yet what he says of its 
v/idespread prevalence among unconnected peoples goes to 
prove this. 

Pliny has a clearer comprehension of the extensive scope Magic and 
of magic and of its essential characteristics, at least as it was divination, 
in his day. "No one should wonder," he says, "that its au- 
thority has been very great, since alone of the arts it has 

*Aulus Gellius, X, 12, and wrote the works of alchemy at- 

Columella, VII, 5, dispute this tributed to Democritus as well as 

(Bouche-Leclercq, L'Astrologie the books of medical and magical 

grecque, p. 519). Berthelot {Ori- recipes which are quoted in the 

gines de I'alchimie, p. 145) believes Geoponica and the Natural His- 

in a Democritan school at the be- tory. 

ginning of the Christian era which ^ XVI, 95. 



Magic and 

Magic and 

and philos- 

embraced and united with itself the three other subjects 
which make the greatest appeal to the human mind," namely, 
medicine, religion, and the arts of divination, especially as- 
trology. That his phrase artes mathematicas has reference 
to astrology is shown by his immediately continuing, "since 
there is no one who is not eager to learn the future about 
himself and who does not think that this is most truly re- 
vealed by the sky." But magic further "promises to reveal 
the future by water and spheres and air and stars and lamps 
and basins and the blades of axes and by many other 
methods, besides conferences with shades from the infernal 
regions." There can therefore be no doubt that Pliny re- 
gards the various arts of divination as parts of magic. 

While we have heard Pliny assert in general the close 
connection between magic and religion, the character of the 
Natural History, which deals with natural rather than re- 
ligious matters, does not lead him to enter into much further 
detail upon this point. His occasional mention of religious 
usages in his own day, however, supports our information 
from other sources that the original Roman religion was 
very largely composed of magic forces, rules, and cere- 

Nearly half the books of the Natural History deal in 
whole or in part with remedies for diseases, and it is there- 
fore of the relations between magic and natural science, and 
more particularly between magic and medicine, that Pliny 
gives us the most detailed information. Indeed, he asserts 
that "no one doubts" that magic "originally sprang from 
medicine and crept in under the show of promoting health 
as a loftier and more sacred medicine." Magic and medi- 
cine have developed together, and the latter is now in immi- 
nent danger of being overwhelmed by the follies of magic, 
which have made men doubt whether plants possess any 
medicinal properties. 

In the opinion of many, however, magic is sound and 
beneficial learning. In antiquity, and for that matter at 
almost all times, the height of literary fame and glory has 


been sought from that science.^ Eudoxus would have it the 
most noted and useful of all schools of philosophy. Em- 
pedocles and Plato studied it; Pythagoras and Democritus 
perpetuated it in their writings. 

But Pliny himself feels that the assertions of the books Falseness 
of magic are fantastic, exaggerated, and untrue. He re- ° "lag^c. 
peatedly brands the magi or magicians as fools or impostors, 
and their statements as absurd and impudent tissues of lies.^ 
Vanitas, or "nonsense," is his stock-word for their beliefs.* 
Some of their writings must, in his opinion, have been dic- 
tated by a feeling of contempt and derision for humanity.* 
Nero proved the falseness of the art, for although he studied 
magic eagerly and with his unlimited wealth and power had 
every opportunity to become a skilful practitioner, he was 
unable to work any marvels and abandoned the attempt.^ 
Pliny therefore comes to the conclusion that magic is "in- 
valid and empty, yet has some shadows of truth, which 
however are due more to poisons than to magic." ^ 

The last remark brings us to charges of evil practices Crimes 
made against the magicians. Besides poisons, they special- ° "lagic. 
ize in love-potions and drugs to produce abortions ; ''' and 
some of their operations are inhuman or obscene and abom- 
inable. They attempt baleful sorcery or the transfer of dis- 
ease from one person to another.^ Osthanes and even Dem- 
ocritus propound such remedies as drinking human blood or 
utilizing in magic compounds and ceremonies parts of the 
corpses of men who have been violently slain. ^ Pliny thinks 
that humanity owes a great debt to the Roman government 

' XXX, 2. ". . . quamquam ani- XXIX, 26 ; XXX, 7 ; XXXVII, 

madverto summam Htterarum 14. 

claritatem gloriamque ex ea sci- ■* XXXVII, 40. 

entia antiquitus et paene semper » XXX 5-6. 

petitam." «XXx', 6.' "Proinde ita per- 

Examples are : XXV, 59, Sed ^^^^^^ ^j^ intestabilem, inritam. 

magi utique circa banc insaniunt ; j^^^^^^ ^^^^^ habentem tamen 

XXIX, 20 magorum mendacia ; q^asdam veritatis umbras, sed in 

XXXVII, 60, magorum inpuden- j^j^ veneficas artis pollere, non 

tiae vel manifestissimum . . . ex- niagicas " 

emplum"; XXXVII, 72), "dira 'XXV 7 

mendacia magorum." , :L ' ;" 

'See XXII, 9; XXVI, 9; * XXVIII, 23. 

XXVII, 6s; XXVIII, 2.^ and 27; " XXVIII, 2. 



censure of 
magic is 
mainly in- 

of Pliny's 

for abolishing those monstrous rites of human sacrifice, "in 
which to slay a man was thought most pious ; nay more, to 
eat men was thought most wholesome." ^ 

Pliny nevertheless lays less stress upon the moral argu- 
ment against magic as criminal or indecent than he does 
upon the intellectual objection to it as untrue and unscientific. 
Indeed, so far as decency is concerned, his own medicine will 
be seen to be far from prudish, while he elsewhere gives in- 
stances of magicians guarding against defilement.^ More- 
over, among the methods employed and the results sought 
by magic which he frequently mentions there are compara- 
tively few that are morally objectionable, although they seem 
without exception false. But many of their recipes aim at 
the cure of disease and other worthy, or at least admissible, 
objects. Possibly Pliny has somewhat censored their lore 
and tried to exclude all criminal secrets, but his censure 
seems more intellectual than moral. For instance, he fills 
a long chapter with extracts from a treatise on the virtues of 
the chameleon and its parts by Democritus, whom he regards 
as a leading purveyor of magic lore.^ In opening the chap- 
ter Pliny hails "with great pleasure" the opportunity to ex- 
pose "the lies of Greek vanity," but at its close he expresses 
a wish that Democritus himself had been touched with the 
branch of a palm which he said prevents immoderate loquac- 
ity. Pliny then adds more charitably, "It is evident that 
this man, who in other respects was a wise and most useful 
member of society, has erred from too great zeal in serving 

Pliny himself fails to maintain a consistently sceptical at- 
titude towards magic. His exact attitude is often hard to de- 
termine. Often it is difficult to say whether he is speaking 
in sober earnest or in a tone of light and easy pleasantry 
and sarcasm, as in the passage just cited concerning Democ- 
ritus. Another puzzling point is his frequent excuse that 
he will list certain assertions of the magicians in order to 

*XXX, 4. 'XXVIII, 19; XXX, 6. 'XXVIII, 29. 


expose or confute them. But really he usually simply sets 
them forth, apparently expecting that their inherent and 
patent absurdity will prove a sufficient refutation of them. 
On the rare occasions when he undertakes to indicate in 
what the absurdity consists his reasoning is scarcely scientific 
or convincing. Thus he affirms that "it is a peculiar proof 
of the vanity of the magicians that of all animals they most 
admire moles who are condemned by nature in so many ways, 
to perpetual blindness and to dig in the darkness as if they 
were buried." ^ And he assails the belief of the magi ^ that 
an owl's egg is good for diseases of the scalp by asking, 
"Who, I beg, could ever have seen an owl's, since it is 
a prodigy to see the bird itself?" Moreover, he sometimes 
cites assertions of the magicians without any censure, apol- 
ogy, or expression of disbelief; and there are many other 
passages where it is practically impossible to tell whether he 
is citing the magicians or not. Sometimes he will apparently 
continue to refer to them by a pronoun in chapters where 
they have not been mentioned by name at all.^ In other 
places he will imperceptibly cease to quote the magi and 
after an interval perhaps as imperceptibly resume citation of 
their doctrines.* It is also difficult to determine just when 
writers like Democritus and Pythagoras are to be regarded 
as representatives of magic and when their statements are 
accepted by Pliny as those of sound philosophers. 

Perhaps, despite Pliny's occasional brave efforts to with- j^agic and 
stand and even ridicule the assertions of the magicians, he science 
could not free himself from a secret liking for them aiid guishable. 
more than half believed them. At any rate he believed very 
similar things. Even more likely is it that previous works 
on nature were so full of such material and the readers of 
his own day so interested in it, that he could not but include 

^XXX, 7. we must look back three chapters 
*XXIX, 26. for the antecedent of corum. 
^Fot instance, XXX, 27, he * XXXVII, 14, he says that he is 
mentions the magi, but not in going to confute "the unspeakable 
XXX, 28. Nor are they mentioned nonsense of the magicians" con- 
in XXX, 29, but in XXX, 30 cerning gems, but makes no spe- 
"plura eorum remedia ponemus" cific citation from them until the 
seems to refer to them, although thirty-seventh chapter on jasper. 


much of it. Once he explains ^ that certain statements are 
scarcely to be taken seriously, yet should not be omitted, be- 
cause they have been transmitted from the past. Again he 
begs the reader's indulgence for similar "vanities of the 
Greeks," "because this too has its value that we should 
know whatever marvels they have transmitted." ^ The truth 
of the matter probably is that Pliny rejected some assertions 
of the magicians but found others acceptable; that he gets 
his occasional attitude of scepticism and ridicule of their 
doctrines from one set of authorities, and his moments of 
unquestioning acceptance of their statements from other 
authors on whom he relies. Very likely in the books which 
he used it often was no clearer than it is in the Natural 
History whether a statement was to be ascribed to the magi 
or not. Very possibly Pliny was as confused in his own 
mind concerning the entire business as he seems to be to us. 
He could no more keep magic out of his Natural History 
than poor Mr, Dick could keep Charles the First's head out 
of his book. One fact at any rate stands out clearly, the 
prominence of magic in his encyclopedia and in the learning 
of his age. 

IV. The Science of the Magi 

Magicians Let US now further examine Pliny's picture of magic, 

gators of riot as he expressly defines or censures it, but as he reflects 
nature. j^g q-^^ assertions and purposes in his fairly numerous cita- 
tions from its literature and perhaps its practice. Here I 
shall rather strictly limit my survey to those statements 
which Pliny definitely ascribes by name to the magi or magic 
art. The most striking fact is that the magicians are cited 
again and again concerning the supposed properties, virtues, 
and effects of things in nature — herbs, animals, and stones. 
These virtues are, it is true, often employed in an effort to 
produce wonderful results, and often too they are combined 
with some fantastic rite or superstitious ceremonial per- 
formed by a human agent. But in many cases either no 
»XXX, 47. =" XXXVII, II. 

on herbs. 


rite at all is suggested or merely some simple medicinal ap- 
plication; and in a few cases there is no mention of any par- 
ticular operation or result, the magicians are cited simply 
as authorities concerning the great but unspecified virtues of 
natural objects. Indeed, they stand out in Pliny's pages not 
as mere sorcerers or enchanters or wonder-workers, but as 
those who have gone the farthest and in most detail — too far 
and too curiously in Pliny's opinion — into the study of medi- 
cine and of nature. Sometimes their statements, cited with- 
out censure, supplement others concerning the species under 
discussion;^ sometimes they are his sole source of informa- 
tion on the subject in hand.^ 

Pliny connects the origin of botany rather closely with The magi 
magic, mentioning Medea and Circe as early investigators 
of plants and Orpheus among the first writers on the sub- 
ject.^ Moreover, Pythagoras and Democritus borrowed 
from the mac/i of the orient in their works on the properties 
of plants.^ There would be little profit in repeating the 
names of the herbs concerning which Pliny gives opinions 
of the magicians, inasmuch as few of them can be associated 
with any plants known to-day.^ Suffice it to say that Pliny 
makes no objection to the herbs which they employed. Nor 
does he criticize their methods of employing them, although 
some seem superstitious enough to the modern reader. A 
chaplet is worn of one herb,® others are plucked with the 
left hand and with a statement of what they are to be used 
for, and in one case without looking backward.'^ The anem- 
one is to be plucked when it first appears that year with a 
statement of its intended use, and then is to be wrapped in a 
red cloth and kept in the shade, and, whenever anyone falls 
sick of tertian or quartan fever, is to l3e bound on the pa- 
tient's body.^ The heliotrope is not to be plucked at all but 

'XX, 30; XXI, 38, 94, 104; 104; XXII, 9, 24, 29; XXIV, 99. 

XXII, 24, 29. 102; XXV, 59, 65, 80-81; XXVI, 

=XXI, 36; XXIV, 99. 9- 

' XXV, 5. * XXI, 38. 

^XXIV, 99-102. 'XXI, 104; XXII, 24. 

^See XX, 30; XXI, 36, 38, 94, 'XXI. 94. 



of herbs. 

tied in three or four knots with a prayer that the patient may 
recover to untie the knots. ^ 

PHny does not even object to the marvelous results which 
the magi think can be gained by use of herbs until towards 
the close of his twenty-fourth book, although already in his 
twentieth and twenty-first books such powers have been 
claimed for herbs as to make one well-favored and enable 
one to attain one's desires,^ or to give one grace and glory.^ 
At the end of his twenty-fourth book * he states that Pythag- 
oras and Democritus, following the magi, ascribe to herbs 
unusually marvelous virtues such as to freeze water, invoke 
spirits, force the guilty to confess by frightening them with 
apparitions, and impart the gift of divination. Early in his 
twenty-fifth book ^ Pliny suggests that some incredible effects 
have been attributed to herbs by the magi and their disciples, 
and in a later chapter ® he describes the magi as so mad about 
vervain that they think that if they are anointed with it, 
they can gain their wishes, drive away fevers and other dis- 
eases, and make friendships. The herb should be plucked 
about the rising of the dog-star when there is neither sun 
nor moon. Honey and honeycomb should be offered to ap- 
pease the earth; then the plant should be dug around with 
iron with the left hand and raised aloft. By the time he 
reaches his twenty-sixth book Pliny's courage has risen, so 
to speak, enough to cause him at last to enter upon quite a 
tirade against "magical vanities which have been carried so 
far that they might destroy faith in herbs entirely." "^ As 
examples he mentions herbs supposed to dry up rivers and 
swamps, open barred doors at their touch, turn hostile armies 
to flight, and supply all the needs of the ambassadors of the 
Persian kings. He wonders why such herbs have never 
been employed in Roman warfare or Italian drainage. 
Pliny's only objection to magic herbs therefore seems to be 
the excessive powers which are claimed for some of them. 

'XXII, 29. 
'XX, 30. 
•XXI, 38. 
*XXIV, 99 and 102. 

'XXV, 5. 
«XXV, 59. 
'XXVI, 9- 


He adds that it would be strange that the creduhty which 
arose from such wholesome beginnings had reached such a 
pitch, if human ingenuity observed moderation in anything 
and if the much more recent system of medicine which As- 
clepiades founded could not be shown to have been carried 
even beyond the magicians. Here again we see Pliny failing 
to recognize magic as a primitive social product and regard- 
ing it as a degeneration from ancient science rather than 
science as a comparatively modern development from it. 
But he may well be right in thinking that many particular 
far-fetched recipes and rites were the late, artificial product 
of over-scholarly magicians. Thus he brands as false and 
magical the assertion of a recent grammarian, Apion, that 
the herb cynocephalia is divine and a safeguard against 
poison, but kills the man who uproots it entirely.-^ 

In a few cases Pliny objects to the animals or parts of Animals 
animals employed by the magi, as in the passage already cited of^^^f/*^ 
where he complains that they admire moles more than any mals. 
other animals.^ But his assertion is inconsistent, since he 
has already affirmed that they hold the hyena in most admi- 
ration of all animals on the ground that it works magic upon 
men.^ Their promise of readier favor with peoples and 
kings to those who anoint themselves with lion's fat, espe- 
cially that between the eyebrows, he criticizes by declaring 
that no fat can be found there.^ He also twits the magi for 
magnifying the importance of so nasty a creature as the tick.^ 
They are attracted to it by the fact that it has no outlet to 
its body and can live only seven days even if it fasts. 
Whether there is any astrological significance in the number 
seven here Pliny does not say. He does inform us, how- 
ever, that the cricket is employed in magic because it moves 
backward.^ A very bizarre object employed by the Druids 
and other magicians is a sort of tgg produced by the hissing 
or foam of snakes."^ The blood of the basilisk may also be 

;XXX, 6. 'XXX, 24. 

"xxviiii 27. "xxix, 39. 

* XXVIII, 25. 'XXIX. 12. 


classed as a rarity. Apparently animals in some way un- 
usual are preferred in magic, like a black sheep/ but the 
logic in the reasons given by Pliny for their selection is not 
clear in every instance. In some other cases not criticized 
by Pliny ^ we have plainly enough sympathetic magic or the 
principle of like cures like, as when the milt of a calf or sheep 
is used to cure diseases of the human spleen. 
Further The magicians, however, do not scorn to use familiar 


and easily obtainable animals like the goat and dog and cat. 
The liver and dung of a cat, a puppy's brains, the blood and 
genitals of a dog, and the gall of a black male dog are among 
the animal substances employed.^ Such substances as those 
just named are equally in demand from other animals.^ Mi- 
nute parts of animals are frequently employed by the magi- 
cians, such as the toe of an owl, the liver of a mouse given 
in a fig, the tooth of a live mole, the stones from young 
swallows' gizzards, the eyes of river crabs.^ Sometimes 
the part employed is reduced to ashes, perhaps a relic of 
sacrificial custom. Thus for toothache the magi inject into 
the ear nearer the tooth the ashes of the head of a mad dog 
and oil of Cyprus, while they prescribe for affections of 
the sinews the ashes of an owl's head in honied wine with 
lily root.^ Other living creatures which Pliny mentions as 
used by the magi are the salamander, earthworm, bat, scarab 
with reflex horns, lizard, tortoise, bed-bug, frog, and sea- 
urchin.'^ The dragon's tail wrapped in a gazelle's skin and 
bound on with deer-sinews cures epilepsy,® and a mixture 
of the dragon's tongue, eyes, gall, and intestines, boiled in 
oil, cooled in the night air, and rubbed on morning and 
evening, frees one from nocturnal apparitions.® 

Sometimes the parts of animals are bound on outside 
the patient's body, sometimes the injured portion of his body 

^XXX, 6. 7; XXX, 27; XXXII. 38. 
'XXVIII, 57; XXX, 17. «XXX, 8 and 36; see also 

"Use of goat, XXVIII, 56, 63, XXVIII. 60; XXXII, 19 and 24. 

78-79; cat, XXVIII, 66; puppy, 'XXIX, 23; XXX, 18, 20, 30. 

XXIX, 38: dop, XXX, 21. 49; XXXII, 14, 18, 24. 

* XXVIII, 60, 66, 77; XXIX, 26. *XXX, 27. 

• XXVIII, 66 ; XXIX, 15 ; XXX, " XXX, 24. 


is merely touched with them. Once the whole house is to be Magic 
fumigated with the substance in question ; ^ once the walls "nf^als 
are to be sprinkled with it ; once it is to be buried under the and parts 
threshold. Some instances follow of more elaborate magic 
ritual connected with the use of animals or parts of animals. 
The hyena is more easily captured by a hunter who ties 
seven knots in his girdle and horsewhip, and it should be 
captured when the moon is in the sign of Gemini and with- 
out the loss of a single hair.^ Another bit of astrology dis- 
pensed by the tnagi is that the cat, whose salted liver is 
taken with wine for quartan fever, should have been killed 
under a waning moon.^ To cure incontinence of urine one 
not only drinks ashes of a boar's genitals in sweet wine, but 
afterwards urinates in a dog kennel and repeats the for- 
mula, "That I may not urinate like a dog in its kennel." * 
The magicians insist that the sex of the patient be observed 
in administering burnt cow-dung or bull-dung in honied 
wine for cases of dropsy.^ For infantile ailments the brains 
of a she-goat should be passed through a gold ring and 
dropped in the baby's mouth before it is given its milk.® 
After the fresh milt of a sheep has been applied to the pa- 
tient with the words, "This I do for the cure of the spleen," 
it should be plastered into the bedroom wall and sealed with 
a ring, while the charm should be repeated twenty-seven 
times."^ In treating sciatica^ an earthworm should be placed 
in a broken wooden dish mended with an iron band, the 
dish should be filled with water, the worm should be buried 
again where it was dug up, and the water should be drunk 
by the patient. The eyes of river crabs are to be attached 
to the patient's person before sunrise and the blinded crabs 
put back into the water.^ After it has been carried around 
the house thrice a bat may be nailed head down outside a 
window as an amulet. ^^ For epilepsy goat's flesh should be 

^XXX, 24. "XXVIII, 78. 

'XXVIII, 27. 'XXX, 17. 

» XXVIII, 66; and see XXIX, ^XXX 18 

'^*xxvTii, 60. 'xxxii, 38. 

" XXVIII, 68. "XXIX, 26. 



with parts 
of ani- 

The magi 
on stones. 

given which has been roasted on a funeral pyre, and the 
animal's gall should not be allowed to touch the ground.^ 

Pliny occasionally speaks in a vague general way of his 
citations from the magi concerning the virtues of parts of 
animals as lies or nonsense or ''portentous," but he does not 
specifically criticize their procedure any more than he did 
their methods of employing herbs, and he does not criticize 
their promised results as much as he did before. Indeed, as 
we have already indicated, the object in a majority of cases 
is purely medicinal. The purpose of others is pastoral or 
agricultural, such as preventing goats from straying or caus- 
ing swine to follow you.^ The blood of the basilisk, how- 
ever, is said to procure answers to petitions made to the 
powerful and prayers addressed to the gods, and to act 
as a safeguard against poison or sorcery {veneficiorum 
amuleta).^ Invincibility is promised the wearer of the head 
and tail of a dragon, hairs from a lion's forehead, a lion's 
marrow, the foam of a winning horse, a dog's claw bound 
in deerskin, and the muscles alternately of a deer and a 
gazelle.* A woman will tell secrets in her sleep if the heart 
of an owl is applied to her right breast, and power of divina- 
tion is gained by eating the still palpitating heart of a mole.'^ 

In the case of stones the names are again, as in the case 
of herbs, of little significance for us.^ The accompany- 
ing ritual is slight. There are one or two suspensions 
from the neck or elsewhere by such means as a lion's mane — 
the hair of the hyena will not do at all — nor the hair of the 
cynocephalus and swallows' feathers. '^ There is some use of 
incantations with the stones, a setting of iron for one stone, 
burial of another beneath a tree that it may not dull the axe, 
and placing another on the tongue after rinsing the mouth 
with honey at certain days and hours of the moon in order to 
acquire the gift of divination.^ Indeed, the results promised 

* XXVIII, 63. 

* XXVIII, 56; XXIX, 15. 
"XXIX, 19. 

*XXIX, 20. 
*XXIX, 26; XXX, 7. 

* Pliny ascribes statements 

cerning stones to the magi in the 
following chapters: XXXVI, 34; 
XXXVII, 37, 40, 49, SI, 54, 56, 60, 
70, 73- 

' XXXVII, 54 and 40. 

* XXXVII, 40, 60, 56, 73- 


are all marvelous. The stones benefit public speakers, admit 
to the presence of royalty, counteract fascination and sor- 
cery, avert hail, thunderbolts, storms, locusts, and scorpions ; 
chill boiling water, produce family discord, render athletes 
invincible, quench anger and violence, make one invisible, 
evoke images of the gods and shades from the infernal re- 

We have yet to mention a group of magical recipes and other 

remedies which Pliny for some reason collects in one chap- "magical 
■' '■ recipes, 

ter ^ but which hardly fall under any one head. A whet- 
stone on which iron tools are sharpened, if placed without 
his knowledge under the pillow of a man who has been poi- 
soned, will cause him to reveal all the circumstances of the 
crime. If you turn a man who has been struck by lightning 
over on his injured side, he will speak at once. To cure tu- 
mors in the groin, tie seven or nine knots in the remnant 
of a weaver's web, naming some widow as each knot is tied. 
The pain is assuaged by binding to the body the nail that 
has been trod on. To get rid of warts, on the twentieth day 
of the moon lie flat in a path gazing at the moon, stretch the 
hands above the head and rub the warts with anything that 
comes to hand. A corn may be extracted successfully at 
the moment a star shoots. Headache may be relieved by a 
liniment made by pouring vinegar on door hinges or by 
binding a hangman's noose about the patient's temples. To 
dislodge a fish-bone stuck in the throat, plunge the feet into 
cold water; to dislodge some other sort of bone, place bones 
on the head; to dislodge a morsel of bread, stuff bits of 
bread into both ears. We may add from a neighboring 
chapter a very magical remedy for fevers, although Pliny 
calls it "the most modest of their promises." ^ Toe and fin- 
ger nail parings mixed with wax are to be attached ere sun- 
rise to another person's door in order to transfer the disease 
from the patient to him. Or they may be placed near an 
ant-hill, in which case the first ant who tries to drag one in- 

^ XXVIII, 12, "Magorum haec ^ XXVIII, 23. 

commenta sunt. . . ." 



of the 
ments of 
the magi. 

From the 
magi to 

side the hill should be captured and suspended from the pa- 
tient's neck. 

Such is the picture we derive from numerous passages in 
the Natural History of the magic art, its materials and rites, 
the effects it seeks to produce, and its general attitude 
towards nature. Besides the natural materials employed and 
the marvelous results sought, we have noted the frequent 
use of ligatures, suspensions, and amulets, the obser\''ance of 
astrological conditions, of certain times and numbers, rules 
for plucking herbs and tying knots, stress on the use of the 
right or left hand — in other words, on position or direction, 
some employment of incantations, some sacrifice and fumi- 
gation, some specimens of sympathetic magic, of the theory 
that "like cures like," and of other types of magic logic. 

V. Pliny's Magical Science 

We may now turn to the still more numerous passages of 
the Natural History where the magi are not cited and com- 
pare the virtues there ascribed to the things of nature and 
the methods employed in medicine and agriculture with 
those of the magicians. We shall find many striking resem- 
blances and shall soon come to a realization that there is more 
magic in the Natural History which is not attributed to the 
magi than there is that is. Pliny did not need to warn us that 
medicine had been corrupted by magic; his own medicine 
proves it. It is this fact, that virtually his entire work is 
crammed with marvelous properties and fantastic ceremo- 
nial, which makes it so difficult in some places to tell when 
he begins to draw material from the magi and when he 
leaves off. By a detailed analysis of this remaining mate- 
rial we shall now attempt to classify the substances of which 
Pliny makes use and the virtues which he ascribes to them, 
the rites and methods of procedure by which they are em- 
ployed, and certain superstitious doctrines and notions 
which are involved. We shall thus find that almost pre- 
cisely the same factors are present in his science as in the 
lore of the magicians. 



Of substances we may begin with animals/ and, before 

Habits of 

we note the human use of their virtues with its strong sug- animals, 
gestion of magic, may remark another unscientific and su- 
perstitious feature which was very common both in ancient 
and medieval times. This is the tendency to humanize ani- 
mals, ascribing to them conscious motives, habits, and ruses, 
or even moral standards and religious veneration. We shall 
have occasion to note the same thing in other authors and 
so will give but a few specimens from the many in the Nat- 
ural History. Such qualities are attributed by Pliny espe- 
cially to elephants, whom he ranks next to man in intelli- 
gence, and whom he represents as worshiping the stars, 
learning difficult tricks, and as having a sense of justice, feel- 

* Some works upon animals in 
antiquity and Greece are : 

Aubert und Wimmer, Aristo- 
teles Thierkunde, 2 vols., Leipzig, 

Baethgen, De vi et signiUcatione 
gain in religione ct artibus 
Graecorum et Romanorum, Diss. 
Inaug., Gottingen, 1887. 

Bernays, Theophrasts Schrift 
liber Frommigkeit. 

Bikelas, O., La nomenclature de 
la Faune grecque, Paris, 1879. 

Billerbeck, De locis nonnullis 
Arist. Hist. Animal. difUcilioribus , 
Hildesheim, 1806. 

Dryoff, A., Die Tierpsychologie 
des Plutarchs, Progr. Wiirzburg, 
1897. tJber die stoische Tierpsy- 
chologie, in Bl. f. bayr. Gymn., 23 
(1897) 399ff.; 34 (1898) 416. 

Erhard, Fauna der Cykladen, 
Leipzig, 1858. 

Fowler, W. W., A Year with 
the Birds, 1895. 

Hopf, L., Thierorakel und Ora- 
kelthiere in alter und ncucr Zeit, 
Stuttgart, 1888. 

Hopfner, T., Der Tierkult der 
alten ALgypter nach den griech- 
isch-romischen Berichten und 
den unchtigen Denkmdlcrn, in 
Denkschr. d. Akad. Wien, 1913, 
ii Abh. 

Imhoof-Blumer, F., und Keller, 
O., Tier- und Pilansenbilder auf 
Miinscn und Gcmmcn des klas- 
sischen Altertums. illustrated, 

Keller, O., Thiere des class. 


Kriiper, Zeit en des Gehens und 
Kommens und des Briitens der 
Vogel in Griechenland und lonien, 
in Mommsen's Griech. Jahrcssei- 
tcn, 1875. 

Kiister, E., Die Schlange in der 
griechischen Kunst und Religion, 
Giessen, 1913. 

Lebour, Zoologist, 1866. 

Lewysohn, Zoologie des Tal- 
mud s. 

Lindermayer, A., Die Vogel 
Griechenlands, Passau, i860. 

Locard, Histoire des mollusques 
dans I'antiquite, Lyon, 1884. 

Lorenz, Die Taube im Alter- 
thutne, 1886. 

Marx, A., Griech. Mdrchen von 
dankbaren Tieren, Stuttgart, 1889, 

Miihle, H. v. d., Beitrdge sur 
Ornithologie Griechenlands, Leip- 
zig, 1844. 

Sundevall, Thierarten des Aris- 
toteles, Stockholm, 1863. 

Thompson, D'Arcy W., A Glos- 
sary of Greek Birds, 1895. Aris- 
totle as a Biologist, 1913. Also 
the notes to his translation of the 
Historia animalium. 

Westermarck, E., The Origin 
and Development of Moral Ideas, 
I (1906) 251-60, gives further 
bibliography on the subjects of 
animals as witnesses and the pun- 
i:.hment of animal culprits. 


ing of mercy, and so on.^ Similarly the lion has noble cour- 
age and a sense of gratitude, while the lioness is wily in the 
devices by which she conceals her amours with the pard.^ 
A number of the devices of fishes to escape hooks and nets 
are repeated by Pliny from Ovid's Haliciiticon, extant 
only in fragments.^ The crocodile opens its jaws to have 
its teeth picked by a friendly bird ; but sometimes while this 
operation is being performed the ichneumon "darts down its 
throat like a javelin and eats away its intestines."* Pliny 
also marvels at the cleverness displayed by the dragon and 
the elephant in their combats with one another,^ which, how- 
ever, almost invariably terminate fatally to both combatants, 
the elephant falling exhausted in the dragon's coils and 
crushing the serpent by its weight. Others say that in the 
hot summer the dragons thirst for the blood of the elephant 
which is very cold ; in their combat the elephant falls drained 
of its blood and crushes the dragon who is intoxicated by 
the same. 
Remedies The dragon's apparent knowledge that the elephant is 

b'^anhnal*^ cold-blooded leads us to a kindred topic, the remedies used 
by animals and often discovered by men only by seeing ani- 
mals use them. This notion continued in the middle ages, 
as we shall see, and of course it did not originate with Pliny. 
As he says himself, "The ancients have recorded the reme- 
dies of wild beasts and shown how they are healed even when 
poisoned." ^ Against aconite the scorpion eats white helle- 
bore as an antidote, while the panther employs human ex- 
crement.'^ Animals prepare themselves for combats with 
poisonous snakes by eating certain herbs; the weasel eats 
rue, the tortoise and deer use two other plants, while field 
mice who have been stung by snakes eat condrion.^ The 
hawk tears open the hawkweed and sprinkles its eyes with 
the juice.^ The serpent tastes fennel when it sheds its old 

»VIII, I-I2. * XXVII, 2; XVIII, I. 

»VIII, 17-21. ''XXVII, 2; VIII, 41- 

^ XXXII, S. "XX, 51 and 61; XXII, 37 and 

* VIII, 37. 45. 

"VIII, 11-12. "XX, 26. 




of ani- 

skin,^ Sick bears cure themselves by a diet of ants.^ Swal- 
lows restore the sight of their young with chelidonia or swal- 
low-wort,^ and the historian Xanthus says that the dragon 
restores its dead offspring to life with an herb called balis^ 
The hippopotamus was the original discoverer of bleeding,^ 
opening a vein in his leg by wounding himself on sharp reeds 
along the shore, and afterwards checking the flow of blood 
by plastering the place with mud.^ Pliny, however, states 
in one passage that animals hit upon all these remedies by 
chance and even have to rediscover them by accident in each 
new case, "since," he continues in conformity with recent 
animal psychologists, "reason and practice cannot be trans- 
mitted between wild beasts." '^ 

Yet in another passage Pliny deplores the spite fulness jealousy 
of the dog which, while men are looking, will not pluck the 
herb by which it cures itself of snakebite.^ Probably Pliny 
is using different authorities in the two passages. Theo- 
phrastus, the pupil of Aristotle, had written a work on 
Jealous Animals. More excusable than the spitefulness of 
the dog is the attitude of the dragon, from whose brain the 
gem draconitis must be taken while the dragon is alive and 
preferably asleep. For if the dragon feels that it is mor- 
tally wounded, it takes revenge by spoiling the gem.^ Ele- 
phants know that men hunt them only for their tusks, and 
so bury these when they fall ofif.^° 

Animals have marvelous virtues of their own other than 
the medicinal uses to which men have put them. For in- 
stance, the mere glance of the basilisk is fatal, and its breath 
burns up vegetation and breaks rocks. ^^ But the medicinal 
effects which Pliny ascribes to animals and parts of animals 

'VIII, 41; XX, 95. 
'XXIX, 39. 
•XXV, 50. 

virtues of 

*XXV, 5. 

^ VIII, 40; XXVIII, 31. 

° For further remedies used by 
animals see VIII, 41 ; XXIX, 14, 
38; XXV, 52-53; XXVIII, 81. 

' XXVII, 2. ". . . quod certe 
casu repertum quis dubitet et quo- 

tiens fiat etiam nunc ut novom 
nasci quoniam feris ratio et usus 
inter se tradi non possit?" Per- 
haps Pliny would have denied the 
inheritance of acquired character- 

XXV, 51. 
"VIII, 4. 
' VIII, 33. 



are well nigh infinite. Many animal substances will have to 
be introduced in other connections so that we need mention 
now but a very few : the heads and blood of flies, honey in 
which bees have died, cinere genitalis asini, chicks in the, and thrice seven centipedes diluted with Attic honey,^ — 
this last a prescription for asthma and to be taken through a 
reed because it blackens every dish by its contact. Another 
passage advises eating a rat or shrew-mouse in order to bear a 
baby with black eyes.^ These items are enough to convince 
us that the animals and parts of animals employed by the 
magicians were not one whit more bizarre and nauseating 
than the others found in the Natural History, nor were the 
cures which they were expected to work any more improbable. 
In order to illustrate, however, the delicate distinctions which 
were imagined to exist not only between the virtues of dif- 
ferent parts of the same animal, but also between slightly 
varied uses of the same part, we may note that scales 
scraped from the topmost part of a tortoise's shell and ad- 
ministered in drink check sexual desire, considering which, 
it is, as Pliny remarks, the more marvelous that a powder 
made of the entire shell is reported to arouse lust.^ But love 
turns readily to hatred in magic as well as in romance, and 
it is nothing very unusual, as we shall find in other authors, 
for the same thing on slight provocation to work in exactly 
opposite ways. 
The Pig grease, Pliny somewhere informs us, possesses espe- 

he^rbs" ° cially strong virtue, "because that animal feeds on the roots 
of herbs." ^ From the virtues of animals, therefore, let us 
turn to those of herbs. ^ Pliny met on every hand assertion 
of their wonderful powers. The empire-builders of Rome 
employed the sacred herbs sagmina and verbenae in their em- 
bassies and legations. The Gauls, too, use the verbena in 

^XXIX, 34; XXX, 10, 19; theme is Joret, Les plantes dans 

XXVIII, 46; XXIX, 11; XXX, /'anfi^Mjf^', Paris, 1904 ; see also F. 

16. Mentz, De plantis qiias ad rem 

XXX, 46, magicam facere crediderunt vet- 

* XXXII, 14. eres, Leipzig, 1705, 28 pp.; F. 

* XXVIII, 27- Unger, Die Pilanze als Zauber- 

'A recent work on the general mittel, Vienna, 1859. 


lot-casting and prophetic responses.^ Pliny also states more 
sceptically that there is another root which diviners take in 
drink in order to feign inspiration.^ The Scythians know of 
a plant which prevents hunger and thirst if held in the mouth, 
and of another which has the same effect upon their horses, 
so that they can go for twelve days without meat or drink, ^ 
— an exaggerated estimate of the hardihood of the mounted 
Asiatic nomads and their steeds. Musaeus and Hesiod say 
that one anointed with potion will attain fame and dignities.* 
Pliny perhaps did not intend to subscribe fully to such 
statements, although he cannot be said to call many of them 
into question. He did complain that some writers had as- 
serted incredible powers of herbs, such as to restore dragons 
or men to life or withdraw wedges from trees, ^ yet he seems 
on the whole in sympathy with the opinion of the majority 
that there is practically nothing which the force of herbs 
cannot accomplish. Herophilus, illustrious in medicine, had 
said that certain herbs were beneficial if merely trod upon, 
and Pliny himself says the same of more than one plant. He 
tells us further that binding the wild fig tree about their 
necks makes the fiercest bulls stand immobile ; ^ that another 
plant subjects fractious beasts of burden to the yoke ; ' while 
cows who eat buprestis burst asunder.^ Another herb con- 
tacto genitali kills any female animal.® Betony is considered 
an amulet for houses, ^° and fishermen in Pliny's neighbor- 
hood mix a plant with chalk and scatter it on the waves. ^'^ 
"The fish dart towards it with marvelous desire and straight- 
way float lifeless on the surface." Dogs will not bark at 
persons carrying peristereos}^ The "impious plant" pre- 
vents any human being who tastes it from having quinsy, 
while swine are sure to have that disease if they do not eat it. 

^ XXII, 3 ; XXV, 59 ; XXVII, 28. ' XXIII, 64. 

' XXI, 105. "Halicacabi radicem ' XXV, 35- 

bibunt qui vaticinari gallantesque ' XXII, 36. 

vere ad confirmandas superstiti- " XXIV, 94. 

ones aspici se volunt." " XXV, 46. 

' XXV, 43-44- " XXV, 54. 

*XXI, 21, 84. "XXV. 78. 

"XXV, 5 


Some place it in birds' nests to prevent the voracious nest- 
lings from strangling. Bitter almonds provide another 
amusing combination of effects. Eating five of them per- 
mits one to drink without experiencing intoxication, but if 
foxes eat them they will die unless they find water near by 
to drink. ^ There are some herbs which have a medicinal 
effect, if one merely looks at them.- In two cases the 
masculine or feminine variety of a herb is used to secure 
the birth of a child of the desired sex.^ 
Plucking That the plucking of herbs and digging up of roots was 

a process very apt to be attended by magical procedure we 
find abundant evidence in the Natural History. Often 
plants should be plucked before sunrise.^ Twice Pliny tells 
us that the peony should be uprooted by night lest the wood- 
pecker of Mars try to pick the digger's eyes out.^ The 
state of the moon is another point to be observed,* and 
once an herb is to be gathered before thunder is heard.'^ A 
common instruction is to pick the plant with the left hand,^ 
and once with the thumb and fourth finger of the left hand.^ 
Once the right hand should be stretched covertly after the 
fashion of a pickpocket through the left sleeve in order to 
pluck the plant. ^'^ Sometimes one faces east in plucking 
herbs ; sometimes, west ; again one is careful not to face the 
wind.^^ Sometimes the gatherer must not glance behind liim. 
Sometimes he must fast before he takes the plant from the 
ground;^- again he must observe a state of chastity.^^ 
Sometimes he should be barefoot and clothed in white; 
again he should remove every^ stitch of clothing and even his 
rings. ^"* Sometimes the use of iron implements is forbidden ; 
again gold or some other material is prescribed ; ^^ once the 
herb is to be dug with a nail.^*' Sometimes circles are traced 

* XXIII. 7S. = XXIII, 59. 

"XXIV, 56-57. ^^XXIV, 62. 

•XXV, 18; XXVII, 100. "XXV 'I 04 

^XX. 14; XXIV, 82; XXV, 92. -XXIV ~63 and 118. 

'XXV. 10; XXVII, 60. "XXI 19 

;^,^,(V' 6. 93. "XXIV, 62; XXIII, 59- 

'XX, 49: XXI, 83: XXIII, 54; ">^^"I' 8^; XXIV. 6. 62, 116. 

XXIV, 63; XXV, 59; XXVI, 12. "XXVI. 12. 


about the plant with the point of a sword. ^ Often the 
plant must not touch the ground again after it is picked,^ 
presumably from a fear that its virtue would run ofT like an 
electric current. Pliny alludes at least three times ^ to the 
practice of herbalists of retaining portions of the herbs 
they sell, and then, if they are not paid in full, replanting 
the herb in the same spot with the idea that thereby the dis- 
ease will return to plague the delinquent patient. Fre- 
quently one is directed to state why one plucks the herb or 
for whom it is intended.'* In one case the digger says, 
"This is the herb Argemon which Minerva discovered was 
a remedy for swine who taste it." ^ In another case one 
should salute the plant and extract its juice before saying a 
word ; thus its virtue will be much greater.^ In other cases, 
as an offering to appease the earth, the soil about the plant 
is soaked with hydromel three months before plucking it, 
or the hole left by pulling it up is filled with different kinds 
of grain.'' Sometimes one sacrifices beforehand with bread 
and wine or prays to the gods for permission to gather the 
herb.^ The customs of the Druids in gathering herbs are 
mentioned more than once.^ In gathering the sacred mis- 
tletoe on the sixth day of the moon they hold sacrifices and 
a banquet beneath the tree.-^*' Two white bulls are the vic- 
tims ; a priest clad in white cuts the mistletoe with a golden 
sickle and receives it in a white cloak. ^^ 

To Pliny's discussion of herbs we may append some Agri- 
specimens of the employment of magic procedure in agri- magic. 
culture and of the superstitions of the peasantry in which 
his pages abound. To guard against diseases of grain the 
seeds before planting should be steeped in wine, the juice 
of a certain herb, the gall of a cow, or human urine, or 

^ XXI. 19; XXV, 21, 94. « XXV, 92. 

xxvn"'-^ ^'' ^'' ^^^^' ^' '^^^' '9= ^^^' "• 

'XXI, 83; XXV, 109; XXVI, [XXIV, 62; XXV, 21. 
12. "XXIV, 62-63. 

*XXII, 16; XXIII, 54; XXIV, "XVI, 95. 

82; XXVII, 113. "See XXIV, 6, for other 

"XXIV, 116. methods of plucking the mistletoe. 


should be touched with the shoulders of a mole ^ — the ani- 
mal whose use by the magi we heard Pliny ridicule. One 
should sow at the moon's conjunction. Before the field 
is hoed, a frog should be carried around it and then buried 
in the center in an earthen vessel. But it should be disin- 
terred before harvest lest the millet be bitter. Birds may 
be kept away from the grain by planting in the four cor- 
ners of the field an herb whose name is unfortunately un- 
known to Pliny. ^ Mice are kept out by the ashes of a 
weasel, mildew by laurel branches, caterpillars by placing 
the skull of a female beast of burden upon a stick in the 
garden.^ To ward off fogs and storms from orchards and 
vineyards a frog may be buried as directed above, or live 
crabs may be burnt in the trees, or a painted grape may be 
consecrated.'* Suspending a frog in the granary preserves 
the corn stored there.^ To keep wolves away catch one, 
break its legs, attach it to the ploughshare, and thus scatter 
its blood about the boundaries of the field; then bury the 
carcass at the starting-point.® Or consecrate at the altar 
of the Lar the ploughshare with which the first furrow was 
traced. Foxes will not touch poultry who have eaten the 
dried liver of a fox or who wear a bit of its skin about 
their necks. Fern will not spring up again if it is mowed 
with the edge of a reed or uprooted by a ploughshare upon 
which a reed has been placed.''^ Of the use of incantations 
in agriculture we shall treat later. 
Virtues Pliny appears to have much less faith in the possession 

of marvelous virtues by gems than by herbs and parts of ani- 
mals. He not only characterizes the powers attributed to 
gems by the magi and Democritus and Pythagoras as "ter- 
rible lies" and "unspeakable nonsense" ; ^ but refrains from 
mentioning many such himself or inserts a cautious "if 
we believe it" or "if they tell the truth." ^ Of the gem 

'XVIII, 45. " XXVIII, 81. 

* See also XXV, 6. 1 yvtTT R 

a YTV i-Q ' 

*xviii 70 " XXXVII, 14, 73. 

'XVIII. 73. • XXXVII, 55-56. 



supposed to be produced from the urine of the lynx 
he says, "I think that this is quite false and no gem of that 
name has been seen in our time. What is stated concerning 
its medicinal virtue is also false." ^ To other stones, how- 
ever, he ascribes various medicinal virtues, either when 
taken pulverized in drink or when worn as amulets.^ A few 
other occult properties are stated without reservation, as 
that amiantus resists all sorceries,^ that adamant expels idle 
fears from the mind, that 'sideritis produces discord and 
litigation, and that eumeces, placed beneath one's pillow at 
night, causes oracular visions."* Magnets are said to differ 
in sex, and the belief of Theophrastus and re- 
peated that certain stones bear offspring.^ 

Of the metals iron sometimes figures in Pliny's magical 0*1^^^ 

_ ° •' ° , minerals 

procedure, as when he either prescribes or taboos the use of it and 
in cutting herbs or killing animals. In Arcadia the yew-tree 
is a fatal poison to persons sleeping beneath it, but driving 
a copper nail into the tree makes it harmless.® Pliny says 
that gold is medicinal in many ways and in particular is 
applied to wounded persons and to infants as a safeguard 
against witchcraft.'^ Earth itself is often used to work 
marvels, but usually some particular portion, such as that 
between cart ruts or that thrown up by ants, beetles, and 
moles, or in the right footprint where one first heard a 
cuckoo sing.^ However, the rule that an object should not 
touch the ground is enforced in many other connections ^ 
than the plucking of herbs, and Pliny twice states that the 
earth will not permit a serpent who has stung a human be- 
ing to re-enter its hole.^° In his discussion of metals Pliny 
does not allude to transmutation or alchemy, unless it be in 
his accounts of various fraudulent practices of workers in 
metal and how Caligula extracted gold from orpiment. But 
the following directions for preparing antimony show how 

'XXXVII, 13. 'XXXVI, 25, 39. 

'For instance, XXXVII, 12 'XVI, 20. 

amber, 37 jasper, 39 aetites, 55 ' XXXIII, 25. 

"baroptenus." ' XXX, 12, 25. 

•XXXVI, 31. "XX, 3; XXVIII, 6, 9; etc. 

♦XXXVII, IS. 58, 67. "II, 63; XXIX, 23. 



Virtues of 



Virtues of 



closely akin to magic the procedure in ancient metallurgy 
might be. The antimony should be coated with cow-flap 
and burnt in furnaces, then quenched in woman's milk and 
pounded in mortars with an admixture of rain-water.^ 

Various parts and products of the human body are 
credited with remarkable virtues as the mention just made 
of woman's milk suggests. Other passages recommend 
more especially the milk of a woman just delivered of a 
male child, but most of all that of the mother of twins.^ 
Sed nihil facile reperiatur mulierimi profluvio magis mon- 
strificum, as Pliny proceeds to illustrate by numerous ex- 
amples.^ Great virtues are also attributed to the urine, par- 
ticularly of a chaste boy.* A few other instances of rem- 
edies drawn from the human body are ear-wax or a pow- 
dered tooth against stings of scorpions and bites of snakes,^ 
a man's hair for the bite of a dog, the first hairs from a 
boy's head for gout.® Diseases of women are prevented by 
wearing constantly in a bracelet the first tooth a boy loses, 
provided it has not touched the ground. Simply tying two 
fingers or toes together is recommended for tumors in the 
groin, catarrh, and sore eyes.'^ Or the eyes may be touched 
thrice with water in which the feet have been washed. 
Scrofula and throat diseases may be cured by the touch of 
the hand of one who has died an early death, although some 
authorities do not insist upon the circumstance of early 
death but direct that the corpse be of the same sex as the 
patient and that the diseased spot be touched with the back 
of the left dead hand. 

Of all fluids and excretions of the human body the saliva 
is perhaps used most often in ancient and medieval medicine, 
as the custom of spitting once or thrice in administering other 
remedies or performing ceremonies goes to prove. The 
spittle of a fasting person is the more efficacious. In a 
chapter devoted particularly to the properties of human 

* XXXIII, 34- 18-19. 

»XX, 51; XXVIII, 21. ^ XXVIII, 8. 

•VII, 13; XXVIII, 23. 'XXVIII, 9- 

*XX, Z2\ XXII, 30; XXVIII, 'XXVIII, 9-11. 


saliva Pliny lists many diseases and woes which it allevi- 
ates.^ In this connection he makes the following absurd 
assertion which he nevertheless declares is easily tested by 
experiment. "If a person repents of a blow given from a 
distance or hand-to-hand, let him spit into the palm of the 
hand with which he struck, and the person who has been 
struck will feel no resentment. This is often proved by 
beasts of burden who are induced to mend their pace by 
this method after the use of the whip has failed." Pliny 
adds, however, that some persons try to increase the force 
of their blows by thus spitting on the hands beforehand. 
He also mentions as counter-charms against sorcery the 
practices of spitting into one's urine or right shoe, or when 
crossing a dangerous spot. 

The importance of the human operator as a factor in The 
the performance of marvels, be they medical or magical, is operator, 
attested by the frequent injunctions of chastity, virginity, 
nudity, or a state of fasting upon persons concerned in 
Pliny's procedure. Sometimes they are not to glance be- 
hind them, sometimes they are to speak to no one during 
the operation. Pliny also mentions men who have a special 
capacity for wonder-working, such as Pyrrhus, the touch of 
whose toe had healing power,^ those whose eyes exert strong 
fascination, whole tribes of serpent-charmers and venom- 
curers, and others whose mere presence addles the eggs be- 
neath a setting hen.^ The power of words spoken by men 
will be considered separately under the head of incantations. 

While Pliny attributes the most extreme medicinal vir- Absence of 
tues to simples, he excludes from his Natural History the ^^-^^ 
strange and elaborate compounds which were nevertheless pounds, 
so popular in the pharmacy of his age. Of one simple, 
laser, he says that it would be an immense task to attempt 
to list all the uses that it is supposed to have in compounds.* 
His position is that the simple remedies alone are the direct 
work of nature, while the mixtures, tablets, pills, plasters, 

* XXVIII, 7. " XXVIII, 6. 

*VII, 2. "XXII, 49. 





washes are artificial inventions of the apothecaries. Once 
when he describes a compound called "Hermesias" which 
aids in the generation of good and beautiful children, it 
seems to be borrowed by Democritus from the magi} Fur- 
thermore, Pliny thinks that health can be sufficiently pre- 
served or restored by nature's simple remedies. Com- 
pounds are the invention of human conjecture, avarice, and 
impudence. Such conjecture is often false, not sufficiently 
taking into account the natural sympathies and antipathies 
of the numerous ingredients. Often compounds are inex- 
plicable. Pliny also deplores resort to imported drugs from 
India, Arabia, and the Red Sea, when there are homely 
remedies at hand for the poorest man.^ 

We have just heard Pliny refer to the sympathies and 
antipathies of natural simples, and he often explains the 
marvelous effects of natural objects upon one another by 
this relation of love and hatred, friendship or repugnance, 
discord or concord which exists between them, which the 
Greeks call sympathy or antipathy, and which Heracleitus 
was perhaps the first philosopher to insist upon.^ Some 
modern students of magic have tried to account for all magic 
on this theory, and Pliny states that medicine and medicines 
originated from it.* 

This relationship exists between animals, — deer and 
snakes, for example. So great a force is it that stags track 
snakes to their holes and extract them thence despite all 
resistance by the power of their breath. This antipathy 
continues after death, for the sovereign remedy for snake- 
bite is the rennet of a fawn killed in its mother's womb, 
while serpents flee from a man who wears the tooth of a 
deer. But antipathy may change to sympathy, for Pliny 
adds that in some cases certain parts of deer treated in cer- 
tain ways attract serpents.^ This force of antipathy is in- 

*XXIV, 102. 

'In this paragraph I have com- 
bined views expressed by Pliny in 
three different passages : XXII, 
49 and 56; XXIV, i. 

"IX, 88; XXIV, i; XXVIII, 
23; XXXII, 12; XXXVII, 15; etc. 

*XXIV, i; XXIX, 17. 

•VIII. so; XXVIII. 42. 




deed capable of taking the strangest turn. Bed-bugs, foul 
and disgusting as they are, heal the bite of snakes, especially 
asps, and sows can eat the poisonous salamander.^ The an- 
tipathy between goats and snakes would seem almost as 
potent as that between deer and snakes,^ since we are told 
that snake-bitten persons recover more quickly, if they fre- 
quent the stalls where goats are kept or wear as an amulet 
the paunch of a she-goat. 

There is also "the hatred and friendship of deaf and 
insensible things." ^ Instances are the magnet's attraction 
for iron and the fact that adamant can be broken only by 
the blood of a he-goat, two stock examples of occult influ- 
ence and natural marvels which continued classic in the 
medieval period.'* Pliny indeed regards this last as the 
clearest illustration possible of the potency of sympathy 
and antipathy, since a substance which defies iron and fire, 
nature's two most violent agents, yields to the blood of a 
foul animal.^ 

There is furthermore sympathy and antipathy between 
animate and inanimate objects. So marvelous is the antip- 
athy of the tamarisk tree for the spleen alone of internal 
organs, that pigs who drink from troughs of this wood are 
found when slaughtered to be without spleen, and hence 
splenetic patients are fed from vessels of tamarisk.^ The 
spleenless pig, it may be interpolated, is another common- 
place of ancient and medieval science. Smearing the hives 
with cow dung kills other insects but stimulates the bees 
who have an affinity for it {cognatmn hoc iis),'^ probably, 
although Pliny does not say so, on the theory that they are 

'XXIX, 17 and 23. 

'XXVIII, 43- 

*XX, I. "Odia amicitiaque re- 
rum surdarum ac sensu carentium 
. . . quod Graeci sympathiam ap- 
pellavere." XXIV, i. "Surdis 
etiam rerum sua cuique sunt 
venena ac minimis quoque . . • 
Concordia valent." 

* XXVIII, 41; XXXVII, 15. 
Yet a note in Bostock and Riley's 
translation, IV, 207, asserts, "Pliny 

is the only author who makes 
mention of this singularly absurd 

""Nunc quod totis voluminibus 
his docere conati summus de dis- 
cordia rerum concordiaque quam 
antipathiam Graeci vocavere ac 
sympathiam non aliter clarius in- 
telligi potest." 

"XXIV, 41. 

'XXI, 47. 

Love and 





and inani- 
mate ob- 


spontaneously generated from it. That the wild cabbage is 
hostile to dogs is evidenced by the statement of Epicharmus 
that it cures the bite of a mad dog but kills a dog if he eats 
it when given to him with meat.^ Snakes hate the ash-tree 
so, that if they are hemmed in by its foliage on one side and 
fire on the other, they flee by preference into the flames.^ 
Betony, too, is so antipathetic to snakes that they lash them- 
selves to death when a circle of it is drawn about them.^ 
Scorpions cannot survive in the air of Sicily.* Perhaps 
antipathy is also the explanation of Pliny's absurd state- 
ment that loads of apples and pears, even if there are only 
a few of them, are very heavy for beasts of burden.^ Here, 
however, the condition may be remedied and perhaps a re- 
lationship of sympathy established by showing the beasts 
how few fruit there really are or by giving them some to 
eat. That sympathy may even attach to places or religious 
circumstances Pliny infers from the belief that the priestess 
of the earth at Aegira, when about to descend into the cave 
and predict, drinks without injury bull's blood which is sup- 
posed to be a fatal poison.^ 
Like cures That like cures like, or more precisely and paradoxically 

^^^- that the cause of the disease will cure its own result, is an- 

other notion which Pliny's medicine shares with magic. 
This is seen in the use of parts of the mad dog to cure its 
bite,'^ or in rubbing thighs chafed by horse-back riding with 
the foam from a horse's mouth.® The bite of the shrew- 
mouse, too, is best healed by imposition of the very animal 
which bit you, but another shrew-mouse will do and they 
are kept ready in oil and mud for this purpose.^ The sting 
of the phalangium may be cured by merely looking at an- 
other insect of that species, whether it be dead or alive. 

From cases in which the cure for the disease is identical 
with its cause it is but a short step to remedies similar to 

*XX. 36. « XXVIII, 41. 

^XVI, 24. ^xxix, 32. 

'XXV, 55. " XXVIII, 61. 

*XXXVII, 54. "XXIX, 27. 
■^ XXIII, 62; XXIV. I. 


or in some way associated with the ailment. It seems ob- 
vious to PHny that stone in the bladder can be broken by 
the herb on which grow what look exactly like pearls. "In 
the case of no other herb is it so evident for what medicine 
it is intended; its species is such that it can be recognized 
at once by sight without book knowledge."^ Similarly 
ophites, a marble with serpentine streaks, is used as an amu- 
let against snake-bite.^ Mithridates discovered that the 
blood of Pontic ducks should be mixed in antidotes because 
they live on poison.^ Heliotrope seed looks like a scorpion's 
tail ; if scorpions are touched with a sprig of heliotrope they 
die, and they will not enter ground which has been circum- 
scribed by it.^ To accelerate a woman's delivery her lover 
should take off his belt and gird her with it, then untie it, 
saying that he has bound her and will unloose her, and then 
he should go away.^ An epileptic may be cured by driving 
an iron nail into the spot where his head rested when he fell 
in the fit.^ 

Other instances of association are when the remedy em- The prirv 

ploved is some part of an animal who is free from the disease '^'P^^ ?^ 
, -^ . ^ . • associa- 

in question or marked by an opposite state of health. Goats tion. 
and gazelles never have ophthalmia, hence various portions 
of their bodies are prescribed for eye diseases.'^ Eagles can 
gaze at the sun, therefore their gall is efficacious in eye- 
salves.^ The bird called ossifrage has a single intestine 
which digests anything; the end of this intestine serves as 
an amulet against colic, and indigestion may be cured by 
merely holding the crop of the bird in one hand.^ But do not 
hold it too long or your flesh will waste away. The virus 
of mares is an ingredient in a candle which makes heads of 
horses seem to appear when it burns ; ^® while ink of the 
sepia is used in a candle which causes Ethiopians to be 
seen when it is lighted.^^ These magic candles are borrowed 

^ XXVII, 74. •'XXVIII, 47. 

^ XXXVI, II. 8 XXIX 38 

^XXIl'io " XXX, 20. 

»XXVilf:'9. "XXVIII, 49. 

•■ XXVIII, 17. "XXXII, 52. 


by Pliny from the works of Anaxilaus, and we shall find 
them a feature of medieval collections of experiments. 
Earth from a cart-wheel rut is thought a remedy against 
the bite of the shrew-mouse because that creature is too tor- 
pid to cross such a rut ; ^ and Pliny believes that none of 
the virtues attributed to moles by the magicians is more 
probable than that they are an antidote to the bite of the 
shrew-mouse, which shuns even ruts, whereas moles burrow 
freely through the soil.^ Pliny finds incredible the assertion 
made by some that a ship will move more slowly if it has 
the right foot of a tortoise aboard,^ but the logic of the 
magic seems evident enough. 
Magic In Pliny's medicine there are a number of examples of 

of disease, what may be called magic transfer, in which the aim of the 
procedure is not to cure the disease outright but to rid the 
patient of it by transferring it from him to some other ani- 
mal or object. Intestinal disease may be transferred to 
puppies who have not yet opened their eyes by pressing them 
to the body and giving them milk from the patient's mouth. 
They will die of the disease, when its cause and exact nature 
may be determined by dissecting them. But finally they 
must be buried.* Griping pains in the bowels will also pass 
to a duck that is held against the abdomen. One may be 
rid of a cough by spitting in a frog's mouth or cure catarrh 
by kissing a mule,^ although in these cases we are left unin- 
formed whether the disease passes to the animal. But if a 
person who has been stung by a scorpion whispers the news 
in the ear of an ass, the ill will be transferred to the ass.® 
A boil may be removed by rubbing nine grains of barley 
around it, each grain thrice with the left hand, and then 
throwing them all into the fire.^ Warts are banished by 
touching each with a grain of the chickpea and then tying 
the grains up in a linen cloth and throwing them behind 
one.^ If a root of asphodel is applied to sores and then hung 

* XXIX, 27. " XXXII, 29; XXX, II. 

"XXX. 7. • XXVIII, 42. 

'XXXII, 14. 'XXII, 65. 

*XXX, 20 and 14. " XXII, 72. 


up in smoke, the sores will dry up along with the root.^ To 
cure scrofulous sores some bind on as many earthworms 
as there are sores and let them dry up together.^ A tooth 
will cease aching if the herb erigeron is dug up with iron 
and the patient thrice alternately touches the tooth with 
the root and spits, and if he then replaces the herb in the 
same spot and it lives. ^ If this last is a case of magic trans- 
fer, perhaps we may trace the same notion in some of the 
numerous instances in which Pliny directs that an animal 
shall be released alive after some part of it has been removed 
or some other medicinal use made of it. 

A common characteristic of magic force and occult vir- Amulets, 
tue is that it will often act at a distance or without any 
physical contact or direct application. This is manifested 
in the practice of carrying or wearing amulets, or, what is 
the same thing, of ligatures and suspensions, in which ob- 
jects are hung from the neck or bound to some part of the 
body in order to ward off danger from without or cure 
internal disease. Instances of such practices in the Natural 
History are well nigh innumerable. Roots are suspended 
from the neck by a thread ; ^ the tongue of a fox is worn in 
a bracelet ; ^ for quinsy the throat is wound thrice with a 
thong of dog-skin and catarrh is relieved by winding the 
same about the fingers.^ A tooth stops aching when worms 
are taken from a certain prickly plant, put with some bread 
in a pill-box, and bound to the arm on the same side of the 
body as the aching tooth."^ Two bed-bugs bound to the left 
arm in wool stolen from shepherds are a charm against noc- 
turnal fevers; against diurnal fevers, if wrapped in russet 
cloth instead.® The heart of a vulture is an amulet against 
snakes, wild beasts, robbers, and royal wrath.^ The trav- 
eler who carries the herb artemisia feels no fatigue.^*' In- 
jurious drugs cannot cross one's threshold and do injury in 

'XXII, 32. «xxx, 12, 15. 

'XXX, 12. 'XXVII, 62. 

"XXV, 106. 'XXIX, 17. 

*XX, 8r. "XXIX. 24. 

'XXVIII, 47. "XXVI. 89. 


one's household, if a sea-star is smeared with the blood of 
a fox and attached to the lintel or door-post with a copper 
nail.^ Not only is a wreath of herbs worn for headache,^ 
but a sprig of poplar held in the hand prevents chafing be- 
tween the thighs.^ Often objects are placed under one's 
pillow, especially for insomnia,* but any psychological ef- 
fect is precluded in the case where this is to be done without 
the patient's knowledge.^ All sorts of specifications are 
given as to the color and kind of string, cloth, skin, box, 
nail, ring, bracelet, and the like in which should be placed, 
or with which should be bound on, the various gems, herbs, 
and parts of animals which serve as amulets. But when 
we are told that a remedy for headache which always helps 
many consists of a little bone from a snail found between 
two cart ruts, passed through gold, silver, and ivory, and 
attached to the body with dog-skin; or that one may bind 
on the head with a linen cloth the head of a snail decapitated 
with a reed when feeding in the morning especially at full 
moon ; ^ we feel that we have passed beyond mere amulets, 
ligatures, and suspensions to more elaborate minutiae of 
magic procedure. 
Positioner Position or direction is often an important matter in 
Pliny's, as in magic, ceremonial. It perhaps comes out most 
frequently in his specification of right or left. An aching 
tooth should be scarified with the left eye-tooth of a dog; a 
spider which is placed with oil in the ear should be caught 
with the left hand;''' epilepsy may be cured if a virgin 
touches the sufferer with her right thumb ; ^ for ophthalmia 
of the right eye suspend the right eye of a frog from the 
patient's neck, and the left eye for the left eye;^ for lum- 
bago tear off an eagle's feet away from the joint, and use 
the right foot for the right side and the left for pain in the 
left side.^*' But we have met other examples already, and 

'XXXII, i6; also XX, 39. "XXIX, 36. 

'XXII, 30. 'XXX, 8. 

"XXIV, 32, 38. " XXVIII, 10. 

*XX, 72, 82. " XXXII, 24. 

"XXVI, 69. '"XXX, 18. 



also cases of the use of the upper or lower part of this or 
that according to the corresponding location of an aching 
tooth in the upper or lower jaw.^ Tracing circles with and 
about objects, facing towards this or that point of the com- 
pass, the prohibition against glancing behind one, and the 
stress laid upon finding things or killing animals between 
the ruts of cart wheels, are other examples of taking into 
consideration position and direction which we have already 
met with incidentally to the treatment of other topics. The 
prescription of a plant which has grown on the head of a 
statue and of another which has taken root in a sieve thrown 
into a hedge - also seem to take mere position largely into 
account, more so than the accompanying recommendation 
of an herb growing on the banks of a stream and of another 
growing upon a dunghill.^ 

The element of time is also important. Operations should '^,^^ **™® 

1 • element, 

be performed before sunrise, early in the mornmg, at night, 

and so on. The moon is especially regarded in such direc- 
tions.^ When we are informed that sufferers from quartan 
fever should be rubbed all over with the fat of a tortoise, 
we are also told that the tortoise will be fattest on the fif- 
teenth day of the moon and that the patient should be 
anointed on the sixteenth.^ But this waxing and waning of 
the tortoise with the moon is primarily a matter of astrology 
and planetary influence, under which heading we shall also 
later speak of Pliny's observance of the rising of the dog- 

Observance of number is another feature in Pliny's cere- Observ- 
monial, of which we have already met instances. He also n"^ber 
alludes to the writings of Pythagoras on the subject and as- 
cribes to Democritus a work on the number four. Pliny's 
recipes frequently recommend that the operation be thrice 
repeated. In the case of curing scrofula by the ashes of 
vipers he prescribes three fingers thereof taken in drink for 

'See also XXX, 8. 75, 79; XXII, 72; XXIII, 71; 

'XXIV, 106 and 109. XXVIII, 47; XXIX, 36; XXXII, 

^XXIV, 107 and no. 14, 2^, 38, 46. 

'Some examples are: XVIII, ° XXXII. 14. 










thrice seven days.^ In another application of a Gallic herb 
with old axle-grease which has not touched iron, not only 
must the patient spit thrice to the right, but the remedy is 
more efficacious if three men representing three different 
nations anoint the right side with it.^ The virtue of the 
number one is not, however, entirely slighted. Importance 
is attached to the death of a stag from a single wound.^ 
Sometimes three and one are joined in the same operation, 
as when child-birth is aided by hurling through the hoiise 
a stone or weapon by which three animals, a man, a boar, 
and a bear, have been killed with single blows. One of the 
discoveries of Pythagoras which seldom fails is that an odd 
number of vowels in a child's given name portends lame- 
ness, blindness, and like incapacitation on the right side of 
its body, and an even number, injuries on the left side.'* 
In a crown of smilax for headache there should be an odd 
number of leaves,^ and in a diet of snails prescribed for 
stomach trouble an odd number are to be eaten. ^ For a 
head-wash ten green lizards are boiled in ten sextarii of 
oil,"^ and for an application to prevent eyelashes from grow- 
ing again when they have been pulled out fifteen frogs are 
impaled on fifteen bulrushes.^ The person who has tied on 
a certain amulet is thereafter excluded from the patient's 
sight for five days.^ And so on. 

This last item suggests a further intangible factor in 
Pliny's procedure, the doing of things to or for the patient 
without his knowledge. But this and any other incorporeal 
relationships existing between operator and patient should 
perhaps be classed under the head of sympathy and an- 

Closely akin to the power of numljers is that of words. 
Pliny once says of an incantation employed to avert hail- 
storms that he would not dare in seriousness to insert its 

'XXX, 12. 
'XXIV, 112. 
"VIII, so. 
* XXVIII, 6. 
"XXIV, 17. 

•XXX, 15. 
' XXIX, 34. 
» XXXII, 24. 
» XXXII, 38. 


words, although Cato in his work on agriculture prescribed 
a similar formula of meaningless words for the cure of frac- 
tured limbs. ^ But Pliny does not object to the repetition 
of incantations or prayers if the words spoken have some 
meaning. He informs us that ocimum is sown with curses 
and maledictions and that when cummin seed is rammed 
down into the soil, the sowers pray it not to come up.^ In 
another case the sower is to be naked and to pray for him- 
self and his neighbors.^ In a third case in which a poultice is 
to be applied to an inflammatory tumor, Pliny says that 
persons of experience regard it as very important that the 
poultice be put on by a naked virgin and that both she and 
the patient be fasting. Touching the sufferer with the back 
of her hand she is to say, "Apollo forbids a disease to in- 
crease which a naked virgin restrains." Then, withdraw- 
ing her hand, she is to repeat the same words thrice and to 
join with the patient in spitting on the ground each time.* 
Indeed, in another passage Pliny states that it is the uni- 
versal custom in medicine to spit three times with incanta- 
tions.'^ Perhaps the power of the words is thought to be 
increased or renewed by clearing the throat. Words were 
also occasionally spoken in plucking herbs. Ring-worm or 
tetter is treated by spitting upon and rubbing together two 
stones covered with a dry white moss, and by repeating a 
Greek incantation which may be translated, "Flee, Cantha- 
rides, a wild wolf seeks your blood." ^ Abscesses and in- 
flammations are treated with the herb reseda and a Latin 
translation which seems irrelevant, if not quite senseless, and 
which may be translated, "Reseda, make disease recede. 
Don't you know, don't you know what chick has dug up these 
roots? May they have neither head nor feet." ^ In the book 
following this passage Pliny raises the general question of 
the power of words to heal diseases.^ He gives many in- 
stances of belief in incantations from contemporary popu- 

'XVII, 47. ''XXVIII, 7. 

'XIX, 36. "XXVII, 75- 

'XVIII, 35. 'XXVII, 106. 

*XXVI. 60. • XXVIII. 3-4. 




to love- 
and birth- 

Pliny and 

lar superstition, from Roman religion, and from the annals 
of history. He does not doubt that Romans in the past 
have believed in the power of words, and thinks that if we 
accept set forms of prayer and religious formulae, we must 
also admit the force of incantations. But he adds that the 
wisest individuals believe in neither. 

Pliny's recipes and operations are mainly connected 
with either medicine or agriculture, but he also introduces 
as we have seen magical procedure employed in child-birth, 
safeguards against poisons and reptiles, and counter-charms 
against sorcery. He more than once avers that love-charms 
(amatoria) lie outside his province,^ in one passage alleging 
as a reason that the illustrious general Lucullus was killed 
by one," but he includes a great many of them nevertheless.^ 
Some herbs are so employed because of a resemblance in 
shape to the sexual organs,^ another instance of association 
by similarity. Pliny declared against abortive drugs as well 
as love-charms,^ but cited from the Commentaries of Caecil- 
ius one recipe for birth-control for the benefit of over-fecund 
women, consisting of a ligature of two little worms found 
in the body of a certain species of spider and bound on in 
deer-skin before sunrise. After a year the virtue of this 
charm expires.^ 

Pliny devotes but a small fraction of his work to the 
stars and heavens as against terrestrial phenomena, and 
therefore has less occasion to speak of astrology than of 
magic. However, had he been a great believer in astrology 
he doubtless would have devoted more space to the stars and 
their influence on terrestrial phenomena. He recognizes none 
the less, as we have seen, that magic and astrology are in- 

* XXVII, 35. "Catanancen 
Thessalam herbam qualis sit de- 
scribi a nobis supervacuum est, 
cum sit usus eius ad amatoria 
tantum." XXVII, 99. "Phyteuma 
quale sit describere supervacuum 
habeo cum sit usus eius tantum ad 

*XXV, 7. "Ego nee abortiva 
dico ac ne amatoria quidem, 

memor Lucullum imperatorem 
clarissimum amatorio perisse . . ." 

^A iew examples are: XX, 15, 
84, 92; XXIV, II, 42; XXVI, 64; 
XXVII, 42, 99; XXVIII, 77, 80; 
XXX, 49; XXXII, so. 

*XXII, 9. 

"XXV, 7. 

• XXIX, 27. 


timately related and that "there is no one who is not eager 
to learn his own future and who does not think that this is 
shown most truly by the heavens."^ Parenthetically it may 
be remarked that the general literature of the time only con- 
firms this assertion of the widespread prevalence of astrol- 
ogy; allusions of poets imply a technical knowledge of the 
art on their readers' part; the very emperors who occasion- 
ally banished astrologers from Rome themselves consulted 
other adepts. In another passage Pliny speaks of men who 
"assign events each to its star according to the rules of na- 
tivities and believe that God decreed the future once for all 
and has never interfered with the course of events since.^ 
This way of thinking has caught learned and vulgar alike in 
its current and has led to such further methods of divina- 
tion as those by lightning, oracles, haruspices, and even such 
petty auguries as from sneezes and shifting of the feet. 
Furthermore in Pliny's list of men prominent in the various 
arts and sciences we find Berosus of whom a statue was 
erected by the Athenians in honor of his skill in astrological 
prognostication.' In another place where he speaks for a 
moment of "the science of the stars" Pliny disputes the the- 
ories of Berosus, Nechepso, and Petosiris that length of 
human life is ordered by the stars, and also makes the trite 
objection to the doctrine of nativities tliat masters and 
slaves, kings and beggars are born at the same moment.* He 
also is rather inclined to ridicule the enormous figures of 
720,000 or 490,000 years set by Epigenes and Berosus and 
Critodemus for the duration of astronomical observations 
recorded by the Babylonians.^ From such passages we get 
the impression that astrology is widely accepted as a science 
but that the art of nativities at least is not regarded by Pliny 

^XXX, I. On the general atti- * II, 5. "Astroque suo eventus 

tude to astrology of the preceding adsignat nascendi legibus semel- 

Augustan Age and its poets see que in omnes futures umquam dec 

H. W. Garrod, Manili Astronomi- decretum in reliquom vero otium 

con Liber II, Oxford, 191 1, pp. datur." 

Ixv-lxxiii, but I think he overesti- ^ vil 2>7- 

mates the probable effect of the ^ ^' 

edict of 16 A.D. upon the poem of *^ ' 50- 

Manilius. ^VII, 57. 


with favor. But it would not be safe to say that he denies 
the control of the stars over human destiny. Indeed, in one 
chapter he declares that the astronomer Hipparchus can 
never be praised enough because more than any other man 
he proved the relationship of man with the stars and that 
our souls are part of the sky.^ When Pliny disputes the 
vulgar notion that each man has a star varying in bright- 
ness according to his fortune, rising when he is born, and 
fading or falling when he dies, he is not attacking even the 
doctrine of nativities; he is denying that the stars are con- 
trolled by man's fate rather than that man's life is ordered 
by the stars. ^ 
Celestial j£ pijj^y ^hus leaves us uncertain as to the relation of 

portents. ■' 

man to the stars, we also receive conflicting impressions 

from his discussion of various celestial phenomena regarded 
as portentous. In one passage he speaks of the debt of 
gratitude owed by mankind to those great astronomical 
geniuses who have freed men from their former supersti- 
tious fear of eclipses.^ But he explains thunderbolts as 
celestial fire vomited forth from the planet Venus and "bear- 
ing omens of the future." * He also gives instances from 
Roman history of comets which signaled disaster, and he 
expounds the theory of their signifying the future.*^ What 
they portend may be determined from the direction in which 
they move and the heavenly body whose power they re- 
ceive, and more particularly from the shapes they assume 
and their position in relation to the signs of the zodiac. In- 
deed, Pliny even gives examples of ominous eclipses of the 
sun, although it is true that they were also of unusual 
length.^ He also tells us that many of the common people 
still believed that women could produce eclipses "by sor- 
ceries and herbs. '^ 

'II, 24. "11, 9. 

MI, 6, "Non tanta caelo societas *II, 18. 

nobiscum est ut nostro fato mor- ' II, 23. 

talis sit ibi quoque siderum ful- "II, 30. 

gor." ' XXV, 5. 


Aside from the question of the control of human des- The stars 

, . , ^,. , , , . and the 

tiny by the constellations at birth, Plmy s general theories world of 

of the universe and of the influence of the stars upon ter- nature, 
restrial nature are roughly similar to those of astrology. 
For him the universe itself is God, ''holy, eternal, vast, all 
in all, nay, in truth itself all;" ^ and the sun is the mind 
and soul of the whole world and the chief governor of na- 
ture.^ The planets affect one another. A cold star renders 
another approaching it pale; a hot star causes its neighbor 
to redden ; a windy planet gives those near it a lowering ap- 
pearance.^ At certain points in their orbits the planets are 
deflected from their regular course by the rays of the sun, — • 
an unwitting concession to heliocentric theory.* Pliny as- 
cribes the usual astrological qualities to the planets.^ Saturn 
is cold and rigid; Mars, a flaming fire; Jupiter, located be- 
tween them, is temperate and salubrious. Besides their ef- 
fects upon one another, the planets especially influence the 
earth.® Venus, for instance, rules the process of genera- 
tion in all terrestrial beings.''' Following the Georgics of 
Vergil somewhat, Pliny asserts that the stars give indubi- 
table signs of the weather and expounds the utility of the 
constellations to farmers.^ He tells how Democritus by 
his knowledge of astronomy was able to corner the olive 
crop and put to shame business men who had been decrying 
philosophy ; ^ and how on another occasion he gave his 
brother timely warning of an impending storm.^^ But Pliny 
does not accept all the theories of the astrologers as to con- 
trol of the stars over terrestrial nature. He repeats, but 
without definitely accepting it, the ascription by the Baby- 
lonians of earthquakes to three of the planets in particular,^^ 
and the notion that the gem sandastros or garamantica, em- 

'II, I. " XVIII, 5, 57, 69. 

MI, 4. •XVIII, 68. Other authorities 

'II, 16. tell the story of Thales; see 

*II, 13. Cicero, De divinatione, II, 201; 

*II, 6; and see II, 39. Aristotle, Poiit. I, 7; and Dioge- 

*II, 6. "Potentia autem ad ter- nes Laertius. 

ram magnopere eorum pertinens." "XVIII, 78. 

Ml, 6. "II, 81. 



cal medi- 

sion : 
unity of 
Pliny's su-T 

ployed by Chaldeans in their ceremonies, is intimately con- 
nected with the stars. ^ He is openly incredulous about the 
gem glossopetra, shaped like a human tongue and supposed 
to fall from the sky during an eclipse of the moon and to 
be invaluable in selenomancy.^ 

Pliny tells how the physician Crinas of Marseilles made 
a fortune by regulating diet and observing hours according 
to the motion of the stars. ^ But he does not show much 
faith in astrological medicine himself, rejecting entirely the 
elaborate classification of diseases and remedies which the 
astrologers had by his time already worked out for the 
revolutions of the sun and moon in the twelve signs of the 
zodiac* In his own recipes, however, astrological consid- 
erations are sometimes observed, as we have already seen, 
especially the rising of the dog-star and the phases of the 
moon. Pliny, indeed, states that the dog-star exerts an ex- 
tensive influence upon the earth.'^ As for the moon, the 
blood in the human body augments and decreases with its 
waxing and waning as shell-fish and other things in nature 
do.^ Indeed, painstaking men of research had discovered 
that even the entrails of the field-mouse corresponded in 
number to the days of the moon, that the ant stopped work- 
ing during the interlunar days, and that diseases of the eyes 
of certain beasts of burden also increased and decreased 
with the moon.'^ But on the whole Pliny's medicine and 
science do not seem nearly so immersed in and saturated 
with astrology as with other forms of magic. This gap 
was for the middle ages amply filled by the authority 
of Ptolemy, of whose belief in astrology we shall treat in 
the next chapter. 

We have tried to analyze the contents of the Natural 
History, bringing out certain main divisions and underly- 
ing principles of magic in Pliny's agriculture, medicine, and 
natural science. This is, however, an artificial and difficult 

* XXXVII, 28. ''II, 40. 

^ XXXVII, 59. on 102 

"XXIX, 5. ^^' ° • 

*XXX, 29. 'II, 41. 


task, since it is not easy to sever materials from ceremonial 
or the virtues of objects from the relations of sympathy 
or antipathy between them. Often the same passage might 
serve to illustrate several points. Take for example the 
following sentence : "Thrasyllus is authority that nothing 
is so hostile to serpents as crabs ; swine who are stung cure 
themselves by this food, and when the sun is in Cancer, 
serpents are in pain." ^ Here we have at once antipathy, 
the remedies used by animals, the reasoning, characteristic 
of magic, from association and similarity, and the belief in 
astrology. And this confusion, to illustrate which a hundred 
other examples might be collected from the Natural His- 
tory, demonstrates how indissolubly interwoven are all the 
varied threads that we have been tracing. They all go 
naturally together, they belong to the same long period 
of thought, they represent the same stage in mental develop- 
ment, they all are parts of magic. 

^ XXXII, 19. 



Seneca's Natural Questions — Nature study as an ethical substitute 
for existing religion — Limited field of Seneca's work — Marvels accepted, 
questioned, or denied — Belief in natural divination and astrology — 
Divination from thunder — Ptolemy — His two chief works — His mathe- 
matical method — Attitude towards authority and observation — The 
Optics — Medieval translations of Almagest — Tetrabiblos or Quadri- 
partitum — A genuine reflection of Ptolemy's approval of astrology — 
Validity of Astrology — Influence of the stars not inevitable — Astrology 
as natural science — Properties of the planets — Remaining contents of 
Book One — Book Two: regions — Nativities — Future influence of the 

"When the stars twinkle through the loops of time." 

— Byron. 

Seneca's j^ ^j^jg chapter we shall preface the main theme of Ptolemy 
Questions, and his sanction of astrology by a consideration of another 
and earlier ancient writer on natural science who was 
very favorable to divination of the future, namely, the 
famous philosopher, statesman, man of letters, and tutor of 
Nero, Lucius Annaeus Seneca. In point of time his Natural 
Questions, or Problems of Nature, is a work slightly ante- 
dating even the Natural History of Pliny, but it is hardly 
of such importance in the history of science as the more 
voluminous works of the three great representatives of 
ancient science, Pliny, Galen, and Ptolemy. Nevertheless 
Seneca was well known and much cited in the middle ages 
as an ethical or moral philosopher, and the title. Natural 
Questions, was to be employed by one of the first medieval 
pioneers of natural science, Adelard of Bath. Seneca in 
any case is a name of which ancient science need not be 
ashamed. He tells us that in his youth he had already 



written a treatise on earthquakes ; ^ and in the present trea- 
tise his aim is to inquire into the natural causes of phenom- 
ena ; he wants to know why things are so. He is aware that 
his own age has only entered the vestibule of the knowledge 
of natural phenomena and forces, that it has but just begun 
to know five of the many stars, that "there will come a time 
when our descendants will wonder that we were ignorant of 
matters so evident." ^ 

In one passage Seneca perhaps expresses his conscious- study 

ness of the very imperfect scientific knowleds^e of his own °^ nature 

. as an ethi- 

age a little too mystically. 'There are sacred things which cal substi- 

are not revealed all at once. Eleusis reserves sights for existing 
those who revisit her. Nature does not disclose her mysteries religion, 
in a moment. We think ourselves initiated; we stand but 
at her portal. Those secrets open not promiscuously nor to 
every comer. They are remote of access, enshrined in the 
inner sanctuary." ^ Indeed, he shows a tendency to regard 
scientific research as a sort of religious exercise or perhaps 
as a substitute for existing religion and a basis for moral 
philosophy. He relates physics to ethics. His enthusiasm 
in the study of natural forces appears largely due to the fact 
that he believes them to be of a sublime and divine character 
and above the petty affairs of men. He also as constantly 
and more fulsomely than Pliny inveighs against the luxury, 
vice, and immorality of his own day, and moralizes as to the 
beneficent influence which natural law and phenomena should 
exert upon human conduct. It is interesting to note that this 
habit of drawing moral lessons from the facts of nature 
was not peculiar to medieval or Christian writers. 

With such subjects as zoology, botany, and mineralogy- 
Seneca's work has little to do; it does not, like Pliny's 

^ L. Anyiaei Senecac Naturalium Teubner edition, ed. Haase, 1881, 

Quacstionum Libri Scptem, VI, and the English translation in 

4, "Aliquando de motu terrarum Clark and Geikie, Physical Science 

volumen iuvenis ediderim." The in the Time of Nero, 1910. In 

edition by G. D. Koeler, Gottingen, Panckoucke's Library, vol. 147, a 

1819, devotes several hundred French translation accompanies 

pages to a Disquisitio and Ani- the text. 
madvcrsiones upon Seneca's work. ^VII, 25. 

I have also used the more recent ^VII, 31. 


Limited Natural History, include medicine and the industrial arts; 
Seneca's neither does he, like Pliny, cite the lore of the magi. The 
work. phenomena of which he treats are mainly meteorological 

manifestations, such as winds, rain, hail, snow, comets, rain- 
bows, and what he regards as allied subjects, earthquakes, 
springs, and rivers. Perhaps he would not have regarded 
the study of vegetables, animals, and minerals as so lofty 
and sublime a pursuit. At any rate, in consequence of the 
restricted field which Seneca covers we find very little of 
the marvelous medicinal and magical properties of plants, 
animals, and other objects, or the superstitious procedure 
which fill the pages of Pliny. 
Marvels Seneca nevertheless has occasion to repeat some tall 

questioned, stories, such as that the river Alpheus of Greece reappears 
or denied, as the Arethusa in Sicily and there every four years casts 
up filth from its depths on the very days when victims are 
slaughtered at the Olympic games. ^ He also affirms that 
living beings are generated in fire; he believes in such ef- 
fects of lightning as removing the venom from snakes 
which it strikes; and he recounts the old stories of floating 
islands and of waters with the virtue of turning white 
sheep black. ^ On the other hand, he qualifies by the phrases, 
*'it is believed" and "they say," the assertions that certain 
waters produce foul skin-diseases and that dew in particu- 
lar, if collected in any quantity, has this evil property; and 
he doubts whether bathing in the Nile would enable a woman 
to bear more children.^ He ridicules the custom of the 
city which had public watchmen appointed to warn the in- 
habitants of the approach of hail-storms, so that they might 
avert the danger by timely sacrifice or simply by pricking 
their own fingers so that they bled a trifle. He adds that 
some suggest that blood may possess some occult property 
of repelling storm-clouds, but he does not see how there 
can be such force in a drop or two and thinks it simpler to 

* III, 26. by lightning; III, passim for mar- 

* V, 6, for animals generated in velous fountains, 
flames; II, 31, for snakes struck * III, 25. 


regard the whole thing as false. In the same chapter he 
states that uncivilized antiquity used to believe that rain 
could be brought on or driven off by incantations, but that 
now-a-days no one needs a philosopher to teach him that 
this is impossible. ■*■ 

But while he thus rejects incantations and is practically Belief in 
silent on the subject of natural magic, Seneca accepts nat- Jjf^^'JJ'^/joj^ 
ural divination in well-nigh all its branches: sacrificial, au- and 
gury, astrology, and divination from thunder. He believes ^^ ""^ °^' 
that whatever is caused is a sign of some future event. ^ 
Only Seneca holds that every flight of a bird is not caused 
by a direct act of God, nor the vitals of the victim altered 
under the axe by divine interference, but that all has been 
prearranged in a fatal and causal series.^ He believes that 
all unusual celestial phenomena are to be looked upon as 
prodigies and portents. A meteor "as big as the moon ap- 
peared when Paulus was engaged in the war against Per- 
seus" ; similar portents marked the death of Augustus and 
execution of Sejanus, and gave warning of the death of 
Germanicus.* But no less truly do the planets in their un- 
varying courses signify the future. The stars are of divine 
nature, and we ought to approach the discussion of them 
with as reverent an air as when with lowered countenance 
we enter the temples for worship.^ Not only do the stars 
influence the upper atmosphere as earth's exhalations af- 
fect the lower, but they announce what is to occur.^ Seneca 
employs the statement of Aristotle that comets signify the 
coming of storms and winds and foul weather to prove that 
they are stars ; and declares that a comet is a portent of bad 
weather during the ensuing year in the same way that the 
Chaldeans or astrologers say that a man's natal star deter- 
mines the whole course of his life.'' In fact, Seneca's 
chief, if not sole, objection to the Chaldeans or astrologers 
would seem to be that in their predictions they take only five 

;iV, 7. "VII, 30. 

II, 32. 6TT ^f, 

' II, 46. ^^' ^°- 

*I, I. 'VII, 28. 







stars ^ into account. "What ? Think you so many thousand 
stars shine on in vain? What else, indeed, is it which causes 
those skilled in nativities to err than that they assign us to 
a few stars, although all those that are above us have a share 
in the control of our fate? Perhaps those which are nearer 
direct their influence upon us more closely; perhaps those 
of more rapid motion look down on us and other animals 
from more varied aspects. But even those stars that are 
motionless, or because of their speed keep equal pace with 
the rest of the universe and seem not to move, are not with- 
out rule and dominion over us." - Seneca accepts the theory 
of Berosus that whenever all the stars are in conjunction in 
the sign of Cancer there will be a universal conflagration, 
and a second deluge when they all unite in Capricorn.^ 

It is on thunderbolts as portents of the future that Sen- 
eca dwells longest, however.* "They give," he declares, 
"not signs of this or that event merely, but often announce 
a whole series of events destined to occur, and that by mani- 
fest decrees and ones far clearer than if they were set down 
in writing." ^ He will not accept, however, the theory that 
lightning has such great power that its intervention nullifies 
any previous and contradictory portents. He insists that 
divination by other methods is of equal truth, though pos- 
sibly of minor importance and significance. Next he at- 
tempts to explain how the dangers of which we are warned 
by divination may be averted by prayer, expiation, or sacri- 
fice, and yet the chain of events wrought by destiny not be 
broken. He maintains that just as we employ the services 
of doctors to preserve our health, despite any belief we may 
have in fate, so it is useful to consult a hanispex. Then he 
goes on to speak of various classifications of thunderbolts 
according to the nature of the warnings or encouragements 
which they bring. 

We pass on from Seneca to a later and greater exponent 
of natural science and divination, Ptolemy, in the follow- 

^That is to say, five in addition 'III, 29. 

to the sun and the moon. *II, 31-SO. 

MI, 32. Ml, 32. 


ing century. He was perhaps born at Ptolema'is in Egypt 
but lived at Alexandria. The exact years of his birth and 
death are unknown, and very little is recorded of his life or 
personality. The time when he flourished is sufficiently in- 
dicated, however, by the fact that his first recorded astro- 
nomical observation was in 127 and his last in 151 A. D. 
Thus most of his work was probably done during the reigns 
of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, but he appears to have 
lived on into the reign of Marcus Aurelius. His strictly 
scientific style scorns rhetorical devices and literary felici- 
ties, and while it is clear and correct, is dry and imper- 

Ptolemy's two chief works, the Geography in eight His two 
books, and 17 nadTjixatLKri avvra^Ls, or Almagest {al-neylaTT]) ^^^^g 
as the Arabs called it, in thirteen books, have been so often 
described in histories of mathematics, astronomy, geogra- 
phy, and discovery that such outline of their contents need 
not be repeated here. The erroneous Ptolemaic theories of 
a geocentric universe and of an earth's surface on which dry 
land preponderated are equally well known. What is more 
to the point at present is to note that one of these theories 
was so well fitted to actual scientific observations and the 
other was thought to be so similarly based, that they stood 
the test of theory, criticism, and practice for over a thou- 
sand years. ^ It should, however, be said that the Geography 
does not seem to have been translated into Latin until the 

*A complete edition of Ptol- Geschichte der griechischen Phi- 

emy's works has been in process losophie und Astrologie, 1894, in 

of publication since 1898 in the Jahrb. f. Philol. u. Pddagogik 

Teubner library by J. L. Heiberg Neue Folge, Suppl. Bd. 21. A 

and Franz Boll. They are also recent summary of investigation 

the authors of the most important and bibliography concerning Ptol- 

recent researches concerning emy is W. Schmid, Die Nachklas- 

Ptolemy. See Heiberg's discus- sische Periode der Griechischen 

sion of the MSS in the volumes Litteratur, 1913, pp. 717-24, in the 

of the above edition which have fifth edition of Christ, Gesch d 

thus far appeared ; his articles on Griech. Litt. 

the Latin translations of Ptolemy 'Some strictures upon Ptolemy 

m Hermes XLV (1910) 57ff, as a geographer are made by Sir 

and XLVI (1911) 206ff; but es- W. M. Ramsay, The Historical 

pecially Boll, ^tudien uber Clau- Geography of Asia Minor 1890 

dtus Ptolcmdus. Ein Beitrag zur pp. 69-73. ' ' 




opening of the fifteenth century/ when Jacobus Angelus 
made a translation for Pope Alexander V, (1409-1410), 
which is extant in many manuscripts ^ as well as in print. ^ 
It therefore did not have the influence and fame in the 
Latin middle ages that the Almagest did or the briefer as- 
trological writings, genuine and spurious, current under 
Ptolemy's name. 

We may briefly state one or two of Ptolemy's greatest 
contributions to mathematical and natural science and his 
probable position in the history of experimental method. 
Perhaps of greater consequence in the history of science 
than any one specific thing he did was his continual reliance 

*Schmid would appear to be 
mistaken in saying that the Geog- 
raphy was already known in Latin 
and Arabic translation in the time 
of Frederick II (p. 718, "Seine in 
erster Linie die Astronomic, dann 
auch die Geographic und Har- 
monik betreffcnden Schriften 
haben sich nicht bloss im Orig- 
inaltcxt erhalten ; sic wurden auch 
friihzeitig von den Arabern iibcr- 
setzt und sind dann, ahnlich wie 
die Werke des Aristoteles, schon 
zur Zeit des Kaisers Friedrich II, 
noch ehe man sie im Urtext ken- 
nen lernte, durch lateinische, nach 
dem Arabischen gemachte Uber- 
setzungen ins Abendland ge- 
langt"), for in his own bibliog- 
raphy (p. 723) we read, "Geog- 
raphic . . . Friihste latein. Uber- 
setzung des Jacobus Angelus 
gedruckt Bologna, 1462." Appar- 
ently Schmid did not know the 
date of Angelus' translation. 

However, Duhem, III (1915) 
417, also speaks as if the Geogra- 
phy were known in the thirteenth 
century: "les considerations em- 
pruntees a la Geographic dc Ptole- 
mee fournissent a Robert dc Lin- 
coln unc objection contre le mouve- 
ment de precession des equinoxes 
tel qu'il est define dans I'Alma- 
geste." See also C. A. Nallino, 
Al-Huwaricmi e il suo rifacimento 
delta geografia di Tolomeo, 1894, 
cited by Suter (iqm) viii-ix, for 
a geography in Arabic preserved 
at Strasburg which is based on 

Ptolemy's Geography. 

" In this Latin translation it 
is often entitled Cosmographia. 
Some MSS are: CLM 14583, 
15th century, fols. 81-215, Cosmo- 
graphia Ptolomei a Jacobo An- 
gelo translata. Also BN 4801, 
4802, 4803, 4804, 4838. Arsenal 
981, in an Italian hand, is pre- 
sumably incorrectly dated as of 
the 14th century. 

This Jacobus Angelus was chan- 
cellor of the faculty of Mont- 
pellier in 1433 and is censured by 
Gerson in a letter for his super- 
stitious observance of days. 

^ The several editions printed 
before 1500 seem to have consisted 
simply of this Latin translation, 
such as that of Bologna, 1462, and 
Vincentiae, 1475, and the Greek 
text to have been first published 
in 1507. Sec Justin Winsor, A 
Bibliography of Ptolemy's Geog- 
raphy, 1884, in Library of Har- 
vard Uitdversity, Bibliographical 
Contributions, No. 18: — a bibliog- 
raphy which deals only with 
printed editions and not with the 
MSS. According to Schmid, how- 
ever, the editio princeps of the 
Greek text was that of Basel, 
1533- C. Miillcr's modern edition 
(Didot, 1883 and 1901) gives an 
unsatisfactory bare list of 38 
MSS. See also G. M. Raidel, 
Commentatio critico-literaria de 
Claudii Ptolemaei Geographia 
eiusque codicibus, 17Z7' 


upon mathematical method both in his astronomy and his 
geography. In particular may be noted his important con- 
tribution to trigonometry in his table of chords, which mod- 
em scholars have found correct to five decimal places, and 
his contribution to the science of cartography by his suc- 
cessful projection of spherical surfaces upon flat maps. 

Ptolemy based his two great works partly upon the re- Attitude 
suits already attained by earlier scientists, following Hip- authority 
parchus especially in astronomy and Marinus in geography, yofion ^^'^' 
He duly acknowledged his debts to these and other writers; 
praised Hipparchus and recounted, his discoveries; and 
where he corrected Marinus, did so with reason. But while 
Ptolemy used previous authorities, he was far from relying 
upon them solely. In the Geography he adds a good deal 
concerning the orient and northern lands from the reports 
of Roman merchants and soldiers. His intention was to re- 
peat briefly what the ancients had already made clear, and 
to devote his works chiefly to points which had remained ob- 
scure. His ideal was to rest his conclusions upon the surest 
possible observation ; and where such materials were meager, 
as in the case of the Geography, he says so at the start. He 
also recognized that delicate observations should be re- 
peated at long intervals in order to minimize the possibility 
of error. He devised and described some scientific instru- 
ments and conducted a long series of astronomical observa- 
tions. He anteceded Comte in holding that one should 
adopt the simplest possible hypothesis consistent with the 
facts to be explained. 

Besides some minor astronomical works and a treatise The 
on music which seems to be largely a compilation an im- ^^'*"- 
portant work on optics is ascribed to Ptolemy.^ It is the 
most experimental in method of his writings, although Alex- 
ander von Humboldt's characterization of it as the only work 
in ancient literature which reveals an investigator of nature 

_ ^L'ottica di Claudia Tolomco da Eugenio ammiraglio di Sicilia ridotta 
in latino, ed. Gilberto Govi, Turin, 1S85. 


in the act of physical experimentation^ must be regarded as 
an exaggeration in view of our knowledge of the writings 
of other Alexandrines such as Hero and Ctesibius. As in 
the case of some of Ptolemy's other minor works, the Greek 
original is lost and also the Arabic text from which was 
presumably made the medieval Latin version which alone 
has come down to us. Yet there are at least sixteen manu- 
scripts of this Latin version still in existence.^ The trans- 
lation was made in the twelfth century by Eugene of Paler- 
mo, admiral of Sicily, whose name is attached to other 
translations and who was also the author of a number of 
Greek poems. ^ Heller states that the Optics was lost at the 
beginning of the seventeenth century but that manuscripts 
of it were rediscovered by Laplace and Delambre.^ At any 
rate the first of the five books is no longer extant, although 
Bridges thinks that Roger Bacon was acquainted with it in 
the thirteenth century.^ It dealt with the relations between 
the eye and light. In the second book conditions of visi- 
bility are discussed and the dependence of the apparent size 
of bodies upon the angle of vision. The third and fourth 
books deal with different kinds of mirrors, plane, convex, 
concave, conical, and pyramidical. Most important of all 
is the fifth and last book, in which dioptrics and refraction 
are discussed for the first and only time in any extant work 
of antiquity,^ provided the Optics has really come down in 
its present form from the time of Ptolemy. His authorship 
has been questioned because the subject of refraction is not 
mentioned in the Almagest, although even astronomical 
refraction is discussed in the Optics."^ De Morgan also 

* Schmid (1913) still cites it ^A. Heller, Geschichte der 

without qualification. Hammer- Physik von Aristoteles bis auf die 

Jensen has an article, Ptolemaios neucstc Zcit, 2 vols., Stuttgart, 

und Heron, in Hermes, XLVHI 1882- 1884. The statement sounds 

(1913) 224, et seq. a trifle improbable in view of the 

' Haskins and Lockwood, The number of MSS still in existence. 

Sicilian Translators of the ^ Opus Mains, II, 7. 

Twelfth Century, in Harvard 'The Dioptra of Hero is really 

Studies in Classical Philology, geodetical. 

XXI (1910), 89. 'Govi (1885), p. 151. 

^ Ibid., 89-94. 


objects that the author of the Optics is inferior to Ptolemy 
in knowledge of geometry.^ Possibly a work by Ptolemy 
has received medieval additions, either Arabic or Latin, in 
the version now extant; maybe the entire fifth book is such 
a supplement. That works which were not Ptolemy's might 
be attributed to him in the middle ages is seen from the case 
of Hero's Catoptrica, the Latin translation of which from 
the Greek is entitled in the manuscripts Ptolemaei de spec- 

If there is, as in other parallel cases, the possibility that Medieval 
the medieval period passed off recent discoveries of its J^^^^ ^f 
own under the authoritative name of Ptolemy, there also Almagest. 
is the certainty that it made Ptolemy's genuine works very 
much its own. This may be illustrated by the case of the 
Almagest. On the verge of the medieval period the work 
was commented upon by Pappus and Theon at Alexandria 
in the fourth, and by Proclus in the fifth century. The Latin 
translation by Boethius is not extant, but the book was in 
great repute among the Arabs, was translated at Bagdad 
early in the ninth century and revised later in the same 
century by Tabit ben Corra. During the twelfth century 
it was translated into Latin both from the Greek and the 
Arabic. The translation most familiar in the middle ages 
was that completed at Toledo in 1175 by the famous trans- 
lator, Gerard of Cremona. There has recently been dis- 
covered, however, by Professors Haskins and Lockwood ^ 
a Sicilian translation made direct from the Greek text some 
ten or twelve years before Gerard's translation. There are 

* Ptolemy in Smith's Diction- gest, in Harvard Studies in Classi- 

ary of Greek and Roman Biog- cal Philology, XXI (1910) 75- 

raphy. 102. 

^It was also so printed in C. H. Haskins, Further Notes 

Sphera cum commcntis, 1518: on Sicilian Translations of the 

"Explicit secundus et ultimus liber Tzvelfth Century, Ibid., XXIII, 

Ptolomei de Speculis. Completa 155-66. 

fuit eius translatio ultimo De- J. L. Heiberg, Eine mittelalter- 

cembris anno Christi 1269." liche Uebcrsetzung der Syntaxis 

' C. H. Haskins and D. P. Lock- des Ptolemaios, in Hermes XLV 

wood, The Sicilian Translators of (1910) 57-66; and Noch einmal 

the Twelfth Century and the First die mittclaltcrliche Ptolemaios- 

Latin Version of Ptolemy's Alma- Uebersetznng, Ibid., XLVI, 207-16. 



The Tet- 
rabiblos or 

A genuine 
tion of 
of astrol- 

two manuscripts of this Sicilian translation in the Vatican 
and one at Florence, showing that it had at least some Ital- 
ian currency. Gerard's reputation and his many other 
astronomical and astrological translations probably account 
for the greater prevalence of his version, or possibly the 
theological opposition to natural science of which the 
anonymous Sicilian translator speaks in his preface had 
some effect in preventing the spread of his version. 

Of Ptolemy's genuine works the most germane to and 
significant for our investigation is his Tetrahihlos, Quadri- 
partitum-j or four books on the control of human life by 
the stars. It seems to have been translated into Latin by 
Plato of Tivoli in the first half of the twelfth century^ be- 
fore Almagest or Geography appeared in Latin. In the 
middle of the thirteenth century Egidius de Tebaldis, a 
Lombard of the city of Parma, further translated the com- 
mentary of Haly Heben Rodan upon the Quadripartitum.^ 
In the early Latin editions^ the text is that of the medieval 
translation; in the few editions giving a Greek text there 
is a different Latin version translated directly from this 
Greek text.* 

In the Tetrahihlos the art of astrology receives sanction 
and exposition from perhaps the ablest mathematician and 
closest scientific observer of the day or at least from one 
who seemed so to succeeding generations. Hence from that 
time on astrology was able to take shelter from any criti- 
cism under the aegis of his authority. Not that it lacked 

*Digby 51, 13th Century, fols. 
79-114, "Liber iiii tractatuum 
Batolomei Alfalisobi in sciencia 
judiciorum astrorum. . . . Et per- 
fectus est eius translatio de 
Arabico in Latinum a Tiburtino 
Platone cui Deus parcat die 
Veneris hora tertia XXa die 
mensis Octobris anno Domini 
MCXXVIII {sic) XV die mensis 
Saphar anno Arabum DXXXIII 
{sic) in civitate Barchinona. 
. . ." The date of translation is 
given as October 2, 1138, in CUL 
1767, 1276 A.D., fols. 240-76, 
"Liber 4 Partium Ptholomei 

Auburtino Palatone." 

^ It is found in an edition printed 
at Venice in 1493, "per Bonetum 
locatellum impensis nobilis viri 
Octaviani scoti civis Modoetien- 

* In the British Museum are edi- 
tions of Venice, 1484, 1493, 1519; 
Paris, 1519; Basel, 1533; Louvain, 
1548; it was also printed in 1551, 

1555, 1578- 

* In the British Museum are but 
three editions of the Greek text, 
all with an accompanying Latin 
translation : Niirnberg, 1535 ; 
Basel, 1553; and 1583. 



other exponents and defenders of great name and ability. 
Naturally the authenticity of the Tetrabiblos has been ques- 
tioned by modern admirers of Hellenic philosophy and sci- 
ence who would keep the reputations of the great men of 
the past free from all smudge of superstition. But Franz 
Boll has shown that it is by Ptolemy by a close comparison 
of it with his other works. ^ The astrological Centiloquium 
or Karpos, and other treatises on divination and astrologi- 
cal images ascribed to Ptolemy in medieval Latin manu- 
scripts are probably spurious, but there is no doubt of his 
belief in astrology. German research as usual regards its 
favorite Posidonius as the ultimate source of much of the 
Tetrabiblos, but this is not a matter of much consequence 
for our present investigation. 

In the Tetrabiblos Ptolemy first engages in argument Validity of 
as to the validity of the art of judicial astrology. If his ^^^'■°°gy- 
remarks in this connection were not already trite conten- 
tions, they soon came to be regarded as truisms. The laws 
of astronomy are beyond dispute, says Ptolemy, but the art 
of prediction of human affairs from the courses of the stars 
may be assailed with more show of reason. Opponents of 
astrology object that the art is uncertain, and that it is use- 
less since the events decreed by the force of the stars are 
inevitable. Ptolemy opens his argument in favor of the art 
by assuming as evident that a certain force is diffused from 
the heavens over all things on earth. If ignorant sailors 
are able to judge the future weather from the sky, a highly 
trained astronomer should be able to predict concerning its 
influence on man. The art itself should not be rejected be* 
cause impostors frequently abuse it, and Ptolemy admits 
that it has not yet been brought to the point of perfection 
and that even the skilful investigator often makes mistakes 
owing to the incomplete state of human science. For one 
thing, Ptolemy regards the doctrine of the nature of matter 
held in his time as hypothetical rather than certain. An- 
other difficulty is that old configurations of the stars can- 
^ Studien iiber Claudius Ptolemdus, 1894. 



of the 
stars not 

as natural 

not safely be used as the basis of present day predictions. 
Indeed, so manifold are the different possible positions of 
the stars and the different possible arrangements of terres- 
trial matter in relation to the stars that it is difficult to col- 
lect enough observations on which to base rules of general 
judgment. Moreover, such considerations as diversity of 
place, of custom, and of education must be taken into ac- 
count in foretelling the future of different persons born 
under the same stars. But although for these reasons pre- 
dictions frequently fail, yet the art is not to be condemned 
any more than one rejects the art of navigation because of 
frequent shipwrecks. 

Nor it is true that the art is useless because the decrees 
of the stars are inevitable. It is often an advantage to have 
previous knowledge even of what cannot be avoided. Even 
the prediction of disaster serves to break the news gently. 
But not all predictions are inevitable and immutable; this 
is true only of the motion of the sky itself and events in 
which it is exclusively concerned. "But other events which 
do not arise solely from the sky's motion, are easily altered 
by application of opposite remedies," just as we can in part 
remedy the hurt of wounds and diseases or counteract the 
heat of summer by use of cooling things. The Egyptians 
have always found astrology useful in the practice of medi- 

Ptolemy next proceeds to set forth the natures and 
powers of the stars "according to the observations of the 
ancients and conformably to natural science." Later, when 
he comes to the prediction of particulars, he still professes 
"to follow everywhere the law of natural causation," and 
in a third passage he states that he "will omit all those 
things which do not have a probable natural cause, which 
many nevertheless scrutinize curiously and to excess: nor 
will I pile up divinations by lot-castings or from numbers, 
which are unscientific, but I will treat of those which have 
an investigated certainty based on the positions of the stars 
and the properties of places." Connecting the positions of 


the stars with earthly regions, — it is an art that fits in well 
with Ptolemy's other occupations of astronomer and geogra- 
pher! The Tetrabiblos has been called "Science's surren- 
der," ^ but was it not more truly divination purified and 
made scientific? 

Taking up first the properties of the seven planets, Properties 
Ptolemy associates with each one or more of the four ele- pf^^^^g 
mental qualities, hot, cold, dry, and moist. Thus the sun 
warms and to some extent dries, for the nearer it comes to 
our pole the more heat and drought it produces. The moon 
is moist, since it is close to the earth and is affected by the 
vapors from the latter, while its influence renders other 
bodies soft and causes putrefaction. But it also warms a 
little owing to the rays it receives from the sun. Saturn 
chills and to some extent dries, for it is remote from the 
sun's heat and earth's damp vapors. Mars emits a parching 
heat, as its color and proximity to the sun indicate. Jupi- 
ter, situated between cold Saturn and burning Mars, is of a 
rather lukewarm nature but tends more to warmth and mois- 
ture than to their opposites. So does Venus, but conversely, 
for it warms less than Jupiter does but moistens more, 
its large surface catching many vapors from the neighbor- 
ing earth. In Mercury, situated near sun, moon, and earth 
alike, neither drought nor dampness predominates, but the 
velocity of that planet makes it a potent cause of sudden 
changes. In general, the planets exert a good or evil influ- 
ence as they abound in the two rich and vivifying qualities, 
heat and moisture, or in the detrimental ones, cold and 
drought. Wet stars like the moon and Venus, are femi- 
nine ; Mercury is neuter ; the other planets are masculine. 
The sex of a planet may also, however, be reckoned accord- 
ing to its position in relation to the sun and the horizon ; and 
changes in the influences exerted by the planets are noted ac- 
cording to their position or relation to the sun. This dis- 
cussion of the properties of the planets is neither convinc- 

* "C'etait la capitulation de la science." Bouche-Leclerca in Rev, 
Hist.. LXV, 257, note 3. 


ing nor scientific. It seems arguing in a circle to make their 
effects upon the earth depend to such an extent upon them- 
selves being affected by vapors from the earth. Indeed 
we are rather surprised that an astronomer like Ptolemy 
should represent vapors from the earth as affecting the 
planets at all. But his discussion is at least an effort, albeit 
a feeble one, to express the potencies of the planets in 
physical terms. 
Remaining Ptolemy goes on to discuss the powers of the fixed stars 

of Book which seem to depend upon their positions in constellations 
O"^- and their relations to the planets. Then he treats of the 

influence of the four seasons of the year and four cardinal 
points, each of which he relates to one of the four qualities, 
hot, cold, dry, and moist. With a discussion of the signs 
of the zodiac and their division into Houses and relation in 
Trigones or Triplicitates or groups of three connected with 
the four qualities, of the exaltation of the planets in the 
signs and of other divisions of the signs and relations of 
the planets to them, the first book ends. 
Book The second book begins by distinguishing prediction of 

Regions. events for whole regions or countries, such as wars, pesti- 
lences, famines, earthquakes, winds, drought, and weather, 
from the prediction of events in the lives of individuals. 
Ptolemy holds that events which affect large areas or whole 
peoples and cities are produced by greater and more valid 
causes than are the acts of individual men, and also that in 
order to predict aright concerning the individual it is neces- 
sary to know his region and nationality. He characterizes 
the inhabitants of the three great climatic zones,^ quarters 
the inhabited world into Europe, Libya, and two parts for 
Asia in the style of the T maps, and subdivides these into 
different countries whose peoples are described, including 
such races as the Amazons. The effects of the stars vary 
according to time as well as place, so that the period in 
which any individual lives is as important to take into 

^ In the medieval Latin translation the Slavs replace the Scythians 
of Ptolemy's text. 


account as his nationality. Ptolemy also discusses how the 
heavenly bodies influence the genus of events, a matter 
which depends largely upon the signs of the zodiac, and 
also how they determine their quality, good or bad, and spe- 
cies, which depends on the dominant stars and their con- 
junctions. Consequently he gives a list of the things which 
belong under the rule of each planet. The remainder of 
the second book is concerned chiefly with prediction of wind 
and weather through the year and with other meteorological 
phenomena such as comets. 

The last two books take up the prediction of events in Nativities. 
the lives of individuals from the stars, in other words the 
science of nativities or genethlialogy. The third book dis- 
cusses conception and birth, how to take the horoscope — 
Ptolemy insists that the astrolabe is the only reliable instru- 
ment for determining the exact time; sun-dials or water- 
clocks will not do — and how to predict concerning parents, 
brothers and sisters, sex, twins, monstrous births, length 
of life, the physical constitution of the child born and what 
accidents and diseases may befall it, and finally concerning 
mental traits and defects. The fourth book deals less with 
the nature of the individual and more with the prediction of 
external events which befall the individual : honors, office, 
marriage, offspring, slaves, travel, and the sort of death that 
he will die. Ptolemy in opening the fourth book makes the 
distinction that, while in the third book he treated of mat- 
ters antecedent to birth or immediately related to birth or 
which concern the temperament of the individual, now he 
will deal with those external to the body and which 
happen to the individual from without. But of course it 
is difficult to maintain such a distinction with entire con- 

The great influence of the Tetrabihlos is shown not only Future in- 
in medieval Arabic commentaries and Latin translations, fhe""^"^!. 
but more immediately in the astrological writings of the de- biblos. 
dining Roman Empire, when such astrologers as Hephaes- 


tion of Thebes/ Paul of Alexandria, and Julius Firmicus 
Maternus cite it as a leading authoritative work. Only the 
opponents of astrology appear to have remained ignorant 
of the Tetrabihlos, continuing to make criticisms of the art 
which do not apply to Ptolemy's presentation of it or which 
had been specifically answered by him. Thus Sextus Em- 
piricus, attacking astrology about 200 A. D., does not men- 
tion the Tetrabihlos and some of the Christian critics of 
astrology apparently had not read it. Whether the Neo- 
Platonists, Porphyry and Proclus, wrote an introduction to 
and commentary upon it is disputed. 

^ Indeed, Hephaestion's first two dit Guilelmus KroU, Berlin, 1908. 

books are nothing but Ptolemy See also CCAG passim concerning 

repeated. About contemporary both Hephaestion and Vettius 

with Ptolemy seems to have been Valens, and Engelbrecht, Hephas- 

Vettius Valens whose astrological tion von Thcbcn und sein astrO' 

work is extant : Vettius Valens, logisches Compendium, Vienna, 

Anthologiarum libri primum edi- 1887. 



I. The Man and His Times 

Recent ignorance of Galen — His voluminous works — The manuscript 
tradition of his works — His vivid personality — Birth and parentage — 
Education in philosophy and medicine — First visit to Rome — Relations 
with the emperors; later life — His unfavorable picture of the learned 
world — Corruption of the medical profession — Lack of real search for 
truth — Poor doctors and medical students — Medical discovery in his 
time — The drug trade — The imperial stores — Galen's private supply of 
drugs — Mediterranean commerce — Frauds of dealers in wild beasts — 
Galen's ideal of anonymity — The ancient book trade — Falsification and 
mistakes in manuscripts — Galen as a historical source — Ancient slavery 
— Social life ; food and wine — Allusions to Judaism and Christianity — 
Galen's monotheism — Christian readers of Galen. 

11. His Medicine and Experimental Science 

Four elements and four qualities — His criticism of atomism — Appli- 
cation of the theory of four qualities in medicine — His therapeutics 
obsolete — Some of his medical notions — Two of his cases — His power 
of rapid observation and inference — His happy guesses — Tendency 
toward scientific measurement — Psychological tests with the pulse — 
Galen's anatomy and physiology — Experiments in dissection — Did he 
ever dissect human bodies ? — Dissection of animals — Surgical operations 
— Galen's argument from design — Queries concerning the soul — No 
supernatural force in medicine — Galen's experimental instinct — His atti- 
tude toward authorities — Adverse criticism of past writers — His esti- 
mate of Dioscorides — Galen's dogmatism ; logic and experience — His 
account of the Empirics — How the Empirics might have criticized 
Galen — Galen's standard of reason and experience — Simples knowable 
only through experience — Experience and food science — Experience and 
compounds — Suggestions of experimental method — Difficulty of medical 
experiment — Empirical remedies — Galen's influence upon medieval ex- 
periment — His more general medieval influence. 

III. His Attitude Toward Magic 

Accusations of magic against Galen — His charges of magic against 
others — Charms and wonder-workers — Animal substances inadmissible 



in medicine — Nastiness of ancient medicine — Parts of animals — Some 
scepticism — Doctrine of occult virtue — Virtue of the flesh of vipers — 
Theriac — Magical compounds — Amulets — Incantations and characters — 
Belief in magic dies hard — On Easily Procurable Remedies — Specimens 
of its superstitious contents — External signs of the temperaments of 
internal organs — Marvelous statements repeated by Maimonides — 
Dreams — Absence of astrology in most of Galen's medicine — The 
Prognostication of Disease by Astrology — Critical days — On the His- 
tory of Philosophy — Divination and demons — Celestial bodies. 

&\\' etris Karayvcc nov ToSe, duokoyco t6 tclOos rovudv 5 Trap' 6\ov 
knavTov Tov ^lov 'iiradov, ou8evl TnaTevcras rdv biriyovixkvwv rkroiavTa, 
Trplv Tzeipadifjvai. Kal avros Siv bwarov tjv els Trelpav tKdilv fie. 

Kiihn, IV, 513. 

Slo K^-v ix€T^ kfikris ofxoiojs hfjiol <}>L\d7rov6s re Kal ^rjXcoTLKds OLkrjdeias 
yhr]TaL, pri TrpoTerois tK 8volv ^ Tpiihv xPW^^iv airo4>o.Lvkado3. iroX- 
XoLKts yap avT(^ (i>aveiTaibia Tri% paxpds irelpas coaTrep k<l)avr] Kq,pol . . . 

Kiihn, XIII, 96-1. 

XPV yap t6v pkWovra yvuaeaOal tl tcov ttoXXcov apeivov evdvs ph> 
Kal ry ^baei. Kal ry TrpcjTj] 5t5acr/caXt^ ttoKv tcov aWav dieveyKtlv 
eireLdav 8k ykvqyai, peipaKiov aXtjOelas tlvos txeiv kporiK'^v pavlav 
wcnrep kv9ovaio}VTa,Kal pr}d' ijpkpa^ prjTevvKTos 8ia\elireLV (TTevSovra 
re Kal avvTeraptvov kKpaOelv, ocra toIs kp8o^OT6.TOLS (IprjTaL tcov 
TraXaioiu' kTreL8av 5* eKpadrj, Kpivetv aurd Kal ^acravl^eiv XP^^V 
irapir6Wcj} Kal crKOTeZv iroaa peu 6po\oyel toIs kpapycos <f>aLVOpkvOis 
TTocra 5^ 8ia4>kptTai Kal outojs to. fikv atpeladai ra 8' aT0(TTpk4>€adat„ 

Kiihn, II, 179. 

"But if anyone charges me therewrith, I confess my disease 
from which I have suffered all my life long, to trust none 
of those v^ho make such statements until I have tested them 
for myself in so far as it has been possible for me to put them 
to the test." 

"So if anyone after me becomes like me fond of w^ork and 
zealous for truth, let him not conclude hastily from tv^^o or 
three cases. For often he will be enlightened through long 
experience, just as I have been." (It is remarkable that Pto- 
lemy spoke similarly of his predecessor, Hipparchus, as a "lover 
of toil and truth" — <f)LK6Trovoy Kal ^tXaXi70€a, quoted by Orr 

(1913), I22.> 




"For one who is to understand any matter better than most 
men do must straightway differ much from other persons in 
his nature and earHest education. And when he becomes a 
lad he must be madly in love with the truth and carried away 
by enthusiasm for it, and not let up by day or by night but 
press on and stretch every nerve to learn whatever the ancients 
of most repute have said. But having learned it, he must judge 
the same and put it to the test for a long, long time and observe 
v/hat agrees with visible phenomena and what disagrees, and 
so accept the one and reject the other." 

I. The Man and His Times 

At the close of the nineteenth century one English stu- Recent 
dent of the history of medicine said, "Galen is so inacces- Jf/^Qalen. 
sible to English readers that it is difficult to learn about 
him at first hand." ^ Another wrote, "There is, perhaps, 
no other instance of a man of equal intellectual rank who 
has been so persistently misunderstood and even misinter- 
preted." ^ A third obstacle to the ready comprehension of 
Galen has been that while more critical editions of some 
single works have been published by Helmreich and others 
in recent times,^ no complete edition of his works has ap- 
peared since that of Kiihn a century ago,^ which is now re- 
garded as very faulty.^ A fourth reason for neglect or 

* James Finlayson, Galen: Two 
Bibliographical Demonstrations in 
the Library of the Faculty of 
Physicians and Surgeons of Glas- 
gow, 1895. Since then I believe 
that the only work of Galen to be 
translated into English is On the 
Natural Faculties, ed. A. J. Brock, 
1916 (Loeb Library). 

^J. F. Payne, The Relation of 
Harvey to his Predecessors and 
especially to Galen: Harveian 
Oration of 1896, in The Lancet, 
Oct. 24, 1896, p. 113^. 

^ In the Teubner texts : Scrip- 
tora minora, 1-3, ed. I. Marquardt, 
I. Mueller, G. Helmreich, 1884- 
1893 ; De victu, ed. Helmreich, 
1898; Dc iemperjmentis, ed. 

Helmreich, 1904; De usu partium, 
ed. Helmreich, 1907, 1909. 

In Corpus Medicorum Grae- 
corum, V, 9, 1-2, 1914-1915, The 
Hippocratic Commentaries, ed. 
Mewaldt, Helmreich, Westen- 
berger, Diels, Hieg. 

* Carolus Gottlob Kiihn, Claudii 
Galeni Opera Omnia, Leipzig, 
1821-1833, 21 vols. My citations 
will be to this edition, unless 
otherwise specified. An older 
edition which is often cited is that 
of Renatus Charterius, Paris, 
1679, 13 vols. 

° The article on Galen in PW 
regards some of the treatises as 
printed in Kiihn as almost un- 


misunderstanding of Galen is probably that there is so much 
by him to be read. 
His volu- Athenaeus stated that Galen wrote more treatises than 

works.^ any other Greek, and although many are now lost, more 
particularly of his logical and philosophical writings, his 
collected extant works in Greek text and Latin translation 
fill some twenty volumes averaging a thousand pages each. 
When we add that often there are no chapter headings or 
other brief clues to the contents,^ which must be ploughed 
through slowly and thoroughly, since some of the most 
valuable bits of information come in quite incidentally or 
by way of unlooked-for digression; that errors in the printed 
text, and the technical vocabulary with numerous words 
not found in most classical dictionaries increase the reader's 
difficulties; ^ and that little if any of the text possesses any 
present medical value, while much of it is dreary enough 
reading even for one animated by historical interest, espe- 
cially if one has no technical knowledge of medicine and 
surgery : — when we consider all these deterrents, we are not 
surprised that Galen is little known. "Few physicians or 
even scholars in the present day," continues the English 
historian of medicine quoted above, "can claim to have 
read through this vast collection ; I certainly least of all. I 
can only pretend to have touched the fringe, especially of 
the anatomical and physiological works." ^ 

* Although Kiihn's Index fills a amined long stretches of text 

volume, it is far from dependable. from which I have got nothing. 

^Liddell and Scott often fail to For the most part, I thought it 

allude to germane passages in better not to take time to read the 

Galen's works, even when they Hippocratic commentaries. At 

include, with citation of some first I was inclined to depend 

other author, the word he uses. upon others for Galen's treatises 

^ Perhaps at this point a simi- on anatomy and physiology, but 
larly candid confession by the finally I read most of them in 
present writer is in order. I have order to learn at first hand of his 
tried to do a little more than Dr. argument from design and his 
Payne in his modesty seems ready attitude towards dissection. Fur- 
to admit of himself, and to look ther than this the reader can prob- 
over carefully enough not to miss ably judge for himself from my 
anything of importance those citations as to the extent and 
works which seemed at all likely depth of my reading. My first 
to bear upon my particular inter- draft was completed before I dis- 
est, the history of science and covered that Puschmann had made 
magic. In consequence I have ex- considerable use of Galen for 





Although the works of Galen are so voluminous, they The 
have reached us for the most part in comparatively late ^adition^^ 
manuscripts/ and to some extent perhaps only in their me- of Galen's 
dieval form. The extant manuscripts of the Greek text 
are mostly of the fifteenth century and represent the en- 
thusiasm of humanists who hoped by reviving the study 
of Galen in the original to get something new and better 
out of him than the schoolmen had. In this expectation they 
seem to have been for the most part disappointed ; the mid- 
dle ages had already absorbed Galen too thoroughly. If it 
be true, as Dr. Payne contends,^ that the chief original con- 
tributions to medical science of the Renaissance period were 
the work of men trained in Greek scholarship, this was be- 
cause, when they failed to get any new ideas from the Greek 
texts, they turned to the more promising path of experimen- 
tal research which both Galen and the middle ages had al- 
ready advocated. The bulky medieval Latin translations ^ of 
Galen are older than most of the extant Greek texts ; there 
are also versions in Arabic and Syriac* For the last five 
books of the Anatomical Exercises the only extant text is 
an Arabic manuscript not yet published.^ 

medical conditions in the Roman 
Empire in his History of Medi- 
cal Education, English transla- 
tion, London, 1891, pp. 93-ii3- 
For the sake of a complete 
and well-rounded survey I have 
thought it best to retain those pas- 
sages where I cover about the 
same ground. I have been unable 
to procure T. Meyer-Steineg, Ein 
Tag ini Leben des Galen, Jena, 
1913, 63 pp. 

^ For an account of the MSS 
see H. Diels, Berl. Akad. Abh. 
(1905), SSff. Some fragments of 
Galen's work on medicinal simples 
exist in a fifth century MS of 
Dioscorides at Constantinople and 
have been reproduced by M. Well- 
mann in Hermes, XXXVIII 
(1903), 292fif. The first two books 
of his Trepi TUiv iv ralj Tpo4>als Svva- 
fieuv were discovered in a Wolf- 
enbiittel palimpsest of the fifth 
or sixth century by K. Koch; 

see Berl. Akad. Sitzb. (1907), 
'Lancet (1896), p. II3S- 
^ For these see V. Rose, Ana- 
lecta Graeca et Latina, Berlin, 
1864. As a specimen of these 
medieval Latin translations may 
be mentioned a collection of some 
twenty-six treatises in one huge 
volume which I have seen in the 
library of Balliol College, Oxford: 
Balliol 231, a large folio, early 
14th century (a note of owner- 
ship was added in 1334 at Canter- 
bury) fols. 437, double columned 
pages. For the titles and incipits 
of the individual treatises see 
Coxe (1852). 

*A. Merx, "Proben der syri- 
schen Uebersetzung von Galenus' 
Schrift iiber die einfachen Heil- 
mittel," Zeitsch. d. Deutsch. Mor^ 
gendl. Gcsell. XXXIX (1885). 

* Payne, Lancet (1896), p. 1130. 



vivid per- 

Birth and 

If SO comparatively little is generally known about Galen, 
it is not because he had an unattractive personality. Nor 
is it difficult to make out the main events of his hfe. His 
works supply an unusual amount of personal information, 
and throughout his writings, unless he is merely transcrib- 
ing past prescriptions, he talks like a living man, detailing 
incidents of daily life and making upon the reader a vivid 
and unaffected impression of reality. Daremberg asserts ^ 
that the exuberance of his imagination and his vanity fre- 
quently make us smile. It is true that his pharmacology and 
therapeutics often strike us as ridiculous, but he did not 
imagine them, they were the medicine of his age. It is true 
that he mentions cases which he has cured and those in which 
other physicians have been at fault, but official war des- 
patches do the same with their own victories and the enemy's 
defeats. Vae victis! In Galen's case, at least, posterity 
long confirmed his own verdict. And dull or obsolete as his 
medicine now is, his scholarly and intellectual ideals and 
love of hard work at his art are still a living force, while 
the reader of his pages often feels himself carried back to 
the Roman world of the second century. Thus "the magic 
of literature," to quote a fine sentence by Payne, "brings 
together thinkers widely separated in space and time." ^ 

Galen — he does not seem to have been called Claudius 
until the time of the Renaissance — was born about 129 A.D.* 
at Pergamum in Asia Minor. His father, Nikon, was an 
architect and mathematician, trained in arithmetic, geome- 
try, and astronomy. Much of this education he transmitted 
to his son, but even more valuable, in Galen's opinion, were 
his precepts to follow no one sect or party but to hear and 
judge them all, to despise honor and glory, and to magnify 
truth alone. To this teaching Galen attributes his own 
peaceful and painless passage through life. He has never 

* Ch. V. Daremberg, Exposition 
des connaissances de Galien sur 
I'anatomie, la physiologie, et la 
pathologic du systcme nerveux, 
Paris, 1841. 

^Lancet (1896), p. 1140. 

* Brock (1916), p. xvi, says in 
131 A.D. Clinton, Fasti Romani, 
placed it in 130. 

IV GALEN 122, 

grieved over losses of property but managed to get along 
somehow. He has not minded much when some have vitu- 
perated him, thinking instead of those who praise him. In 
later life Galen looked back with great affection upon his 
father and spoke of his own great good fortune in having 
as a parent that gentlest, justest, most honest and humane 
of men. On the other hand, the chief thing that he learned 
from his mother was to avoid her failings of a sharp tem- 
per and tongue, with which she made life miserable for their 
household slaves and scolded his father worse than Xan- 
thippe ever did Socrates.^ 

In one of his works Galen speaks of the passionate love Education 
and enthusiasm for truth which has possessed him since boy- o"h'^*'and 
hood, so that he has not stopped either by day or by night medicine, 
from quest of it.^ He realized that to become a true scholar 
required both high natural qualifications and a superior type 
of education from the start. After his fourteenth year he 
heard the lectures of various philosophers, Platonist and 
Peripatetic, Stoic and Epicurean ; but when about seventeen, 
warned by a dream of his father,^ he turned to the study 
of medicine. This incident of the dream shows that 
neither Galen nor his father, despite their education and in- 
tellectual standards, were free from the current belief in 
occult influences, of which we shall find many more instances 
in Galen's works. Galen first studied medicine for four 
years under Satyrus in his native city of Pergamum, then 
under Pelops at Smyrna, later under Numisianus at Corinth 
and Alexandria.^ This was about the time that the great 
mathematician and astronomer, Ptolemy, was completing 
his observations ^ in the neighborhood of Alexandria, but 
Galen does not mention him, despite his own belief that a 
first-rate physician should also know such subjects as 

^ These details are from the De XIX, 59. 

cognoscendis curandisque animi * De anatom. administ., Kiihn, 

morbis, cap. 8, Kiihn, V, 40-44- II, 217, 224-25, 660. See also XV, 

^De naturalihus facultatibus, 136; XIX, 57. 

^^' ^9' Kiihn, II, 179. = His recorded astronomical ob- 

' Kiihn, X, 609 (De methodo servations extend from 127 to 151 

medendi); also XVI, 223; and A.D. 



First visit 
to Rome. 

with the 
emperors : 
later life. 

geometry and astronomy, music and rhetoric.^ Galen's in- 
terest in philosophy continued, however, and he wrote many 
logical and philosophical treatises, most of which are lost.^ 
His father died when he was twenty, and it was after this 
that he went to other cities to study. 

Galen returned to Pergamum to practice and was, when 
but twenty-nine, made the doctor for the gladiators by five 
successive pontiffs.^ During his thirties came his first resi- 
dence at Rome.* The article on Galen in Pauly-Wissowa 
states that he was driven away from Rome by the plague, 
and in De libris pi'opriis he does say that, "when the great 
plague broke out there, I hurriedly departed from the city 
for my native land." ^ But in De prognosticatione ad Epi- 
genem his explanation is that he became disgusted with the 
malice of the envious physicians of the capital, and deter- 
mined to return home as soon as the sedition there was over.^ 
Meanwhile he stayed on and gained great fame by his cures 
but their jealousy and opposition multiplied, so that pres- 
ently, when he learned that the sedition was over, he went 
back to Pergamum. 

His fame, however, had come to the imperial ears and 
he was soon summoned to Aquileia to meet the emperors on 
their way north against the invading Germans. An out- 
break of the plague there prevented their proceeding with 
the campaign immediately,"^ and Galen states that the em- 
perors fled for Rome with a few troops, leaving the rest to 
suffer from the plague and cold winter. On the way Lucius 
Verus died, and when Marcus Aurelius finally returned to 
the front, he allowed Galen to go back to Rome as court 

^Kiihn, X, i6. 

^Fragments du commcntaire de 
G alien siir le Timce de Plat on, 
were published for the first time, 
both in Greek and a French trans- 
lation, together with an Essai sur 
Galien considcrc comme philo- 
sophe, by Ch. Daremberg, Paris, 

" Kiihn, XIII, 599-6oo. 

* Clinton, Fasti Romani, I, 151 

and 155, speaks of a first visit of 
Galen to Rome in 162 and a second 
in 164, but he has misinterpreted 
Galen's statements. When Galen 
speaks of his second visit to 
Rome, he means his return after 
the plague. 

° Kiihn, XIX, IS. 

"Kiihn, XIV, 622, 625, 648; sec 
also I, 54-57, and XII, 263. 

' Kiihn, XIV, 649-50. 


physician to Commodus.^ The prevalence of the plague at 
this time is illustrated by a third encounter which Galen had 
with it in Asia, when he claims to have saved himself and 
others by thorough venesection.^ The war lasted much 
longer than had been anticipated and meanwhile Galen was 
occupied chiefly in literary labors, completing a number of 
works. In 192 some of his writings and other treasures 
were lost in a fire which destroyed the Temple of Peace on 
the Sacred Way. Of some of the works which thus per- 
ished he had no other copy himself. In one of his works 
on compound medicines he explains that some persons may 
possess the first two books which had already been pub- 
lished, but that these had perished with others in a shop on 
the Sacra Via when the whole shrine of peace and the great 
libraries on the Palatine hill were consumed, and that his 
friends, none of whom possessed copies, had besought him 
to begin the work all over again. ^ Galen was still alive and 
writing during the early years of the dynasty of the Severi, 
and probably died about 200. 

Although the envy of other physicians at Rome and His unfa- 

their accusing him of resort to magic arts and divination vorable 
, . ? . . picture of 

m his marvelous prognostications and cures were perhaps the learned 
neither the sole nor the true reason for Galen's temporary ^°^ 
withdrawal from the capital, there probably is a great deal 
of truth in the picture he paints of the medical profession 
and learned world of his day. There are too many other 
ancient witnesses, from the encyclopedist Pliny and the 
satirist Juvenal to the fourth century lawyer and astrologer, 
Firmicus, who substantiate his charges to permit us to ex- 
plain them away as the product of personal bitterness or 

* R. M. Briau, L'Archiafrie Ro- Merton 219, early 14th century, 

maine, Paris, 1877, however, held fol. 2^ — "Incipit liber Galieni 

that Galen never received the offi- archistratos medicorum de ma- 

cial title, archiater; see p. 24, "il est litia complexionis diversae." 

difficile de comprendre pourquoi ^ De venae sectione, Kiihn, XIX, 

le medecin de Pergame qui don- 524. 

nait des soins a I'empereur Marc ^ Kiihn, XIII, 2^2-62, ; for an- 

Aurele, ne fut jamais honore de other allusion to this fire see XIV, 

ce titre." But he is given the title 66. Also II, 216; XIX, 19 and 41. 
in at least one medieval MS — 



tion of the 

pessimism. We feel that these men lived in an intellectual 
society where faction and villainy, superstition and petty- 
mindedness and personal enmity, were more manifest than 
in the quieter and, let us hope, more tolerant learned world 
of our time. Selfishness and pretense, personal likes and 
dislikes, undoubtedly still play their part, but there is not 
passionate animosity and open war to the knife on every 
hand. The stattis belli may still be characteristic of politics 
and the business world, but scholars seem able to live in 
substantial peace. Perhaps it is because there is less prospect 
of worldly gain for members of the learned professions 
than in Galen's day. Perhaps it is due to the growth of the 
impartial scientific spirit, of unwritten codes of courtesy and 
ethics within the leading learned professions, and of state 
laws concerning such matters as patents, copyright, profes- 
sional degrees, pure food, and pure drugs. Perhaps, in the 
unsatisfactory relations between those who should have been 
the best educated and most enlightened men of that time 
we may see an important symptom of the intellectual and 
ethical decline of the ancient world. 

Galen states that many tire of the long struggle with 
crafty and wicked men which they have tried to carry on, 
relying upon their erudition and honest toil alone, and 
withdraw disgusted from the madding crowd to save them- 
selves in dignified retirement. He especially marvels at 
the evil-mindedness of physicians of reputation at Rome. 
Though they live in the city, they are a band of robbers as 
truly as the brigands of the mountains. He is inclined to 
account for the roguery of Roman physicians compared to 
those of a smaller city by the facts that elsewhere men are 
not so tempted by the magnitude of possible gain and that 
in a smaller town everyone is known by everyone else and 
questionable practices cannot escape general notice. The 
rich men of Rome fall easy prey to these unscrupulous prac- 
titioners who are ready to flatter them and play up to their 
weaknesses. These rich men can see the use of arithmetic 
and geometry, which enable them to keep their books 

tv GALEN 127 

straight and to build houses for their domestic comfort, 
and of divination and astrology, from which they seek 
to learn whose heirs they will be, but they have no 
appreciation of pure philosophy apart from rhetorical 

Galen more than once complains that there are no real Lack of 
seekers after truth in his time, but that all are intent upon for truth, 
money, political power, or pleasure. You know very well, 
he says to one of his friends in the De methodo medendi, 
that not five men of all those whom we have met prefer to 
be rather than to seem wise.^ Many make a great outward 
display and pretense in medicine and other arts who have 
no real knowledge.^ Galen several times expresses his 
scorn for those who spend their mornings in going about 
saluting their friends, and their evenings in drinking bouts 
or in dining with the rich and powerful. Yet even his 
friends have reproached him for studying too much and not 
going out more. But while they have wasted their hours 
thus, he has spent his, first in learning all that the ancients 
have discovered that is of value, then in testing and prac- 
ticing the same.* Moreover, now-a-days many are trying 
to teach others what they have never accomplished them- 
selves.' Thessalus not only toadied to the rich but secured 
many pupils by offering to teach them medicine in six 
months.^ Hence it is that tailors and dyers and smiths 
are abandoning their arts to become physicians. Thessalus 
himself, Galen ungenerously taunts, was educated by a 
father who plucked wool badly in the women's apartments.''^ 
Indeed, Galen himself, by the violence of his invective and 
the occasional passionateness of his animosity in his con- 
troversies with other individuals or schools of medicine, 
illustrates that state of war in the intellectual world of his 
age to which we have adverted. 

^■For the statements of this *Kuhn, X, i, y6. 

paragraph see Kiihn, XIV, 603-5, • Kiihn X 600 
620-23. ' ' ^' 

" Kiihn, X, 114. 'Kiihn, X, 4-5. 

•Kiihn, XIV, 599-600. 'Kiihn, X, 10. 



Poor doc- 
tors and 

in Galen's 

The drug 

We suggested the possibility that learning compared to 
other occupations was more remunerative in Galen's day 
than in our own, but there were poor physicians and medi- 
cal students then, as well as those greedy for gain or who 
associated with the rich. Many doctors could not afford to 
use the rarer or stronger simples and limited themselves to 
easily procured, inexpensive, and homely medicaments.^ 
Many of his fellow-students regarded as a counsel of per- 
fection unattainable by them Galen's plan of hearing all the 
different medical sects and comparing their merits and test- 
ing their validity.^ They said tearfully that this course was 
all very well for him with his acute genius and his wealthy 
father behind him, but that they lacked the money to pursue 
an advanced education, perhaps had already lost valuable 
time under unsatisfactory teachers, or felt that they did not 
possess the discrimination to select for themselves what was 
profitable from several conflicting schools. 

Galen was, it has already been made apparent, an intel- 
lectual aristocrat, and possessed little patience with those 
stupid men who never learn anything for themselves, though 
they see a myriad cures worked before their eyes. But that, 
apart from his own work, the medical profession was not 
entirely stagnant in his time, he admits when he asserts that 
many things are known to-day which had not been discov- 
ered before, and when he mentions some curative methods 
recently invented at Rome.^ 

Galen supplies considerable information concerning the 
drug trade in Rome itself and throughout the empire. He 
often complains of adulteration and fraud. The physician 
must know the medicinal simples and their properties him- 
self and be able to detect adulterated medicines, or the mer- 
chants, perfumers, and herbarii will deceive him.* Galen 
refuses to reveal the methods employed in adulterating 
opobalsam, which he had investigated personally, lest the 

* Kiihn, XII, 909, 916, and in vol. 
XIV the entire treatise De reme- 
diis parabilibus. 

* Kiihn, X, 560. 
"Kiihn, X, loio-ii. 

* Kiihn, XIII, 571-72. 


evil practice spread further.^ At Rome at least there were 
dealers in unguents who corresponded roughly to our drug- 
gists. Galen says there is not an unguent-dealer in Rome 
who is unacquainted with herbs from Crete, but he asserts 
that there are equally good medicinal plants growing in the 
very suburbs of Rome of which they are totally ignorant, 
and he taxes even those who prepare drugs for the em- 
perors with the same oversight. He tells how the herbs 
from Crete come wrapped in cartons with the name of the 
herb written on the outside and sometimes the further state- 
ment that it is canipestris.^ These Roman drug stores seem 
not to have kept open at night, for Galen in describing a 
case speaks of the impossibility of procuring the medicines 
needed at once because "the lamps were already lighted." ^ 

The emperors kept a special store of drugs of their own The 
and had botanists in Sicily, Crete, and Africa who supplied stcu-es!^ 
not only them with medicinal herbs, but also the city of 
Rome as well, Galen says. However, the emperors appear 
to have reserved a large supply of the finest and rarest sim- 
ples for their own use. Galen mentions a large amount of 
Hymettus honey in the imperial stores — kv rals avroKparo- 
pLKals airodrjKaLs,^ whence our word "apothecary." ^ He proves 
that cinnamon ^ loses its potency with time by his own ex- 

* Kijhn, XIV, 62, and see Pusch- dicitur is qui species aromaticas 
mann, History of Medical Educa- et res quacunque arti medicine et 
tion (1891), p. 108. cirurgie necessarias habet penes 

^ Kiilin, XIV, 10, 30, 79; and see se et venales exponit," fol. 3. 

Puschmann (1891), 109-11, where "According to Hugutius an 

there is bibliography of the sub- apothecary is one who collects 

ject. samples of various commodities in 

^ Kiihn, X, 792. his stores. An apothecary is called 

* Kiihn, XIV, 26. one who has at hand and exposes 
" The meaning of the word for sale aromatic species and all 

"apothecary" is explained as fol- sorts of things needful in medi- 
lows in a fourteenth century cine and surgery." 
manuscript at Chartres which is "The nest of the fabled cinna- 
a miscellany of religious treatises mon bird was supposed to contain 
with a bestiary and lapidary and supplies of the spice, which He- 
bears the title, "Apothecarius rodotus (III, iii) tells us the 
moralis monasterii S. Petri Car- Arabian merchants procured by 
notensis." leaving heavy pieces of flesh for 
"Apothecarius est, secundum the birds to carry to their nests, 
Hugucium, qui nonnullas diver- which then broke down under the 
sarum rerum species in apothecis excessive weight. In Aristotle's 
suis aggregat. . . . Apothecarius History of Animals (IX, 13) the 



supply of 
drugs : 

perience as imperial physician. An assignment of the spice 
sent to Marcus AureHus from the land of the barbarians 
(kKTTJs ^ap^apov) was superior to what had stood stored in 
wooden jars from the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian, and An- 
toninus Pius. Commodus exhausted all the recent supply, 
and when Galen was forced to turn to what had been on 
hand in preparing an antidote for Severus, he found it much 
weaker than before, although not thirty years had elapsed. 
That cinnamon was a commodity little known to the popu- 
lace is indicated by Galen's mentioning his loss in the fire 
of 192 of a few precious bits of bark he had stored away 
in a chest with other treasures.^ He praises the Severi, 
however, for permitting others to use theriac, a noted medi- 
cine and antidote of which we shall have more to say pres- 
ently. Thus, he says, not only have they as emperors re- 
ceived power from the gods, but in sharing their goods 
freely they are like the gods, who rejoice the more, the 
more people they save." 

Galen himself, and apparently other physicians, were not 
content to rely for medicines either upon the unguent-sellers 
or the bounty of the imperial stores. Galen stored away oil 
and fat and left them to age until he had enough to last for 
a hundred years, including some from his father's lifetime. 
He used some forty years old in one prescription.^ He also 
traveled to many parts of the Roman Empire and procured 
rare drugs in the places where they were produced. Very 
interesting is his account of going out of his way in jour- 
neying back and forth between Rome and Pergamum in 
order to stop at Lemnos and procure a supply of the famous 
terra sigillata, a reddish clay stamped into pellets with the 
sacred seal of Diana.* On the way to Rome, instead of 
journeying on foot through Thrace and Macedonia, he took 
ship from the Troad to Thessalonica ; but the vessel stopped 

nests are shot down with arrows * Kiihn, XIV, 64-66. 

tipped with lead. For other allu- ^^./j Pisoncm dc theriaca, Kiihn, 

sions to the cinnamon bird in XIV, 217. 

classical literature see D'Arcy W. j ' ... vttt 

Thompson, A Glossary of Greek ^"""' -^^^^' 704- 

5iVrfj, Oxford, 1895, p. 82. "Kuhn, XII, 168-78. 


in Lemnos at Myrine on the wrong side of the island, which 
Galen had not realized possessed more than one port, and 
the captain would not delay the voyage long enough to en- 
able him to cross the island to the spot where the terra 
sigillata was to be found. Upon his return from Rome 
through Macedonia, however, he took pains to visit the right 
port, and for the benefit of future travelers gives careful 
instructions concerning the route to follow and the distances 
between stated points. He describes the solemn procedure 
by which the priestess from the neighboring city gathered 
the red earth from the hill where it was found, sacrificing 
no animals, but wheat and barley to the earth. He brought 
away with him some twenty thousand of the little discs or 
seals which were supposed to cure even lethal poisons and 
the bite of mad dogs. The inhabitants laughed, however, 
at the assertion which Galen had read in Dioscorides that 
the seals were made by mixing the blood of a goat with the 
earth. Berthelot, the historian of chemistry, believed that 
this earth was "an oxide of iron more or less hydrated and 
impure."^ In another passage Galen advises his readers, 

* M. Berthelot, "Sur les voyages had replaced the priestess of 

de Galien et de Zosime dans I'Ar- Diana. Pierre Belon witnessed it 

chipel et en Asie, et sur la matiere on August 6th, 1533. By that time 

medicale dans I'antiquite," in there were many varieties of the 

Journal dcs Savants (1895), PP- tablets, "because each lord of 

382-7. The article is chiefly de- Lemnos had a distinct seal." 

voted to showing that an alchem- When Tozer visited Lemnos in 

istic treatise attributed to Zosimus 1890 the ceremony was still per- 

copies Galen's account of his trips formed annually on August sixth 

to Lemnos and Cyprus. Of such and must be completed before 

future copying of Galen we shall sunrise or the earth would lose its 

encounter many more instances. efficacy. Mohammedan khodjas 

As for the terra sigillata, C. J. now shared in the religious cere- 
S. Thompson, in a paper on mony, sacrificing a lamb. But 
"Terra Sigillata, a famous medi- in the twentieth century the en- 
cament of ancient times," pub- tire ceremony was abandoned, 
lished in the Proceedings of the Through the early modern cen- 
Seventeenth International Con- turies the terra sigillata continued 
gress of Medical Sciences. Lon- to be held in high esteem in 
don, 1913, Section XXIII, pp. western Europe also, and was in- 
433-44, tells of various medieval eluded in pharmacopeias as late as 
substitutes for the Lemnian earth 1833 and 1848. Thompson gives a 
from other places, and of the in- chemical analysis of a sixteenth 
teresting_ religious ceremony, per- century tablet of the Lemnian 
formed in the presence of the earth and finds no evidence there- 
Turkish officials on only one day in of its possessing any medicinal 
in the year by Greek monks who property. 




if they are ever in Pamphylia, to lay in a good supply of 
the drug carpesiiim.^ In the ninth book of his work on 
medicinal simples he tells of three strata of sory, chalcite, 
and misy, which he had seen in a mine in Cyprus thirty 
years before and from which he had brought away a sup- 
ply, and of the surprising chemical change which the misy 
underwent in the course of these years. ^ 

Galen speaks of receiving other drugs from Great Syria, 
Palestine, Egypt, Cappadocia, Pontus, Macedonia, Gaul, 
Spain, and Mauretania, from the Celts, and even from In- 
dia.^ He names other places in Greece and Asia Minor than 
Mount Hymettus where good honey may be had, and states 
that much so-called Attic honey is really from the Cyclades, 
although it is brought to Athens and there sold or reshipped. 
Similarly, genuine Falernian wine is produced only in a small 
part of Italy, but other wines like it are prepared by those 
who are skilled in such knavery. As the best iris is that of 
Illyricum and the best asphalt is from Judea, so the best 
petroselinon is that of Macedonia, and merchants export it 
to almost the entire world just as they do Attic honey and 
Falernian wine. But the petroselinon crop of Epirus is sent 
to Thessalonica and there passed off for Macedonian. The 
best turpentine is that of Chios but a good variety may be 
obtained from Libya or Pontus. The manufacture of drugs 
has spread recently as well as the commerce in them. The 

Agricola in the sixteenth cen- 
tury wrote in his work on mining 
{De re metal., ed. Hoover, 1912, 
II, 31), "It is, however, very little 
to be wondered at that the hill in 
the Island of Lemnos was exca- 
vated, for the whole is of a 
reddish-yellow color which fur- 
nishes for the inhabitants that 
valuable clay so especially bene- 
ficial to mankind." 

'Kiihn, XIV, 72. 

'Kiihn, XII, 226-9. See the 
article of Berthelot just cited in 
a preceding note for an explana- 
tion of the three names and of 
Galen's experience. Mr. Hoover, 

in his translation of Agricola's 
work on metallurgy (1912), pp. 
573-4, says, "It is desirable here 
to enquire into the nature of the 
substances given by all of the old 
mineralogists under the Latinized 
Greek terms, chalcitis, misy, sory, 
and melanteria." He cites Dios- 
corides (V, 75-77) and Pliny 
(NH, XXXIV, 29-31) on the sub- 
ject, but not Galen. Yule (1903) 
I, 126, notes that Marco Polo's 
account of Tutia and Spodium 
"reads almost like a condensed 
translation of Galen's account of 
Fompliolyx and Spodos." 

'Kiihn. XIV, 7-8; XIII, 41 1-2; 
XII, 215-6. 


best form of unguent was formerly made only in Laodicea, 
but now it is similarly compounded in many other cities of 
Asia Minor.^ 

We are reminded that parts of animals as well as herbs Frauds of 
and minerals were important constituents in ancient phar- j,^^^^^^ 
macy by Galen's invective against the frauds of hunters beasts, 
and dealers in wild beasts as well as of unguent-sellers. 
They do not hunt them at the proper season for securing 
their medicinal virtues, but when they are no longer in 
their prime or just after their long period of hibernation, 
when they are emaciated. Then they fatten them upon 
improper food, feed them barley cakes to stuff up and dull 
their teeth, or force them to bite frequently so that virus 
will run out of their mouths.^ 

Besides the ancient drug trade, Galen gives us some in- Galen's 
teresting glimpses of the publishing trade, if we may so _ 

term it, of his time. Writing in old age in the De methodo ity. 
medendi,^ he says that he has never attached his name to one 
of his works, never written for the popular ear or for fame, 
but fired by zeal for science and truth, or at the urgent re- 
quest of friends, or as a useful exercise for himself, or, as 
now, in order to forget his old age. Popular fame is only 
an impediment to those who desire to live tranquilly and 
enjoy the fruits of philosophy. He asks Eugenianus, whom 
he addresses in this passage, not to praise him immoderately 
before men, as he has been wont to do, and not to inscribe 
his name in his works. His friends nevertheless prevailed 
upon him to write two treatises Hsting his works,'* and he 
also is free enough in many of his books in mentioning 
others which are essential to read before perusing the pres- 
ent volume.^ Perhaps he felt differently at different times 
on the question of fame and anonymity. He also objected 

*Kuhn, XIV, 22-23, 77-78; * irepi T03V iSluv Pi^\luv,Ku\\n, XIX, 

XIII, 119. Sff. ; and irtpi rns Tdfecjs rcof iSiojy 

' Kuhn, XIV, 255-56. The beasts /3i)3Xico;^, XIX,_49 ff. 

of course were also in demand for ° See, for instance, in the De 

the arena. methodo medcndi itself, X, 895-96 

' Kiihn, X, 456-57, opening pas- and 955. 
sage of the seventh book. 


to those who read his works, not to learn anything from 
them, but only in order to calumniate them.^ 
The It was in a shop on the Sacra Via that most of the copies 

book"* of some of Galen's works were stored when they, together 
trade. with the great libraries upon the Palatine, were consumed 

in the fire of 192. But in another passage Galen states that 
the street of the Sandal-makers is where most of the book- 
stores in Rome are located.^ There he saw some men dis- 
puting whether a certain treatise was his. It was duly in- 
scribed Galenus mediais and one man, because the title 
was unfamiliar to him, bought it as a new work by Galen. 
But another man who was something of a philologer asked 
to see the introduction, and, after reading a few lines, de- 
clared that the book was not one of Galen's works. When 
Galen was still young, he wrote three commentaries on the 
throat and lungs for a fellow student who wished to have 
something to pass off as his own work upon his return 
home. This friend died, however, and the books got into 
circulation.^ Galen also complains that notes of his lec- 
tures which he has not intended for publication have got 
abroad,* that his servants have stolen and published some 
of his manuscripts, and that others have been altered, cor- 
rupted, and mutilated by those into whose possession they 
have come, or have been passed off by them in other lands 
as their own productions.^ On the other hand, some of his 
pupils keep his teachings to themselves and are unwilling to 
give others the benefit of them, so that if they should die 
suddenly, his doctrines would be lost.^ But his own ideal 
has always been to share his knowledge freely with those 
who sought it, and if possible with all mankind. At least 
one of Galen's works was taken down from his dictation by 
short-hand writers, when, after his convincing demonstra- 
tion by dissection concerning respiration and the voice, 
Boethus asked him for commentaries on the subject and 

'Kiihn, XIV, 651: henceforth '11,217. 

this text will generally be cited *XIX, 9. 

without name. "XIX, 41. 

'XIX, 8. "11,283. 




sent for stenographers.^ Although Galen in his travels 
often purchased and carried home with him large quantities 
of drugs, when he made his first trip to Rome he left all his 
books in Asia.^ 

Galen dates the falsification of title pages and contents 
of books back to the time when kings Ptolemy of Egypt 
and Attains of Pergamum were bidding against each other 
for volumes for their respective libraries.^ Works were 
often interpolated then in order to make them larger and 
so bring a better price. Galen speaks more than once of 
the deplorable ease with which numbers, signs, and other 
abbreviations are altered in manuscripts.* A single stroke 
of the pen or slight erasure will completely change the mean- 
ing of a medical prescription. He thinks that such altera- 
tions are sometimes malicious and not mere mistakes. So 
common were they that Menecrates composed a medical 
work written out entirely in complete words and entitled 
Autocrat or H ologrammatos because it was also dedicated to 
the emperor. Another writer, Damocrates, from whom 
Galen often quotes long passages, composed his book of 
medicaments in metrical form so that there might be no 
mistake made even in complete words. 

Galen's works contain occasional historical information 
concerning many other matters than books and drugs. Clin- 
ton in his Fasti Roniani made much use of Galen for the 
chronology of the period in which he lived. His allusions 
to several of the emperors with whom he had personal re- 
lations are valuable bits of source-material. Trajan was, 
of course, before his time, but he testifies to the great im- 
provement of the roads in Italy which that emperor had 
effected.^ Galen sheds a little light on the vexed question 

tion and 
in manu- 

Galen as a 



' XIV, 630. 

' XIX, 34. 

"XV, 109. 

*XIII, 995-96; XIV, 31-32. 

'X, 633. Duruy refers to the 
passage in his History of Rome 
(ed._ J. P. Mahafify, Boston, 1886, 
V, i, 273), but says, "Extensive 
sanitary works were undertaken 

throughout all Italy, and the cele- 
brated Galen, who was almost a 
contemporary, extols their happy 
effects upon the public health." 
But Galen does not have sanitary 
considerations especially in mind, 
since he mentions Trajan's road- 
building only by way of illustra- 
tion, comparing his own systematic 


of the population of the empire, if Pergamum is the place 

he refers to in his estimate of forty thousand citizens or one 

hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants, including women 

and slaves but perhaps not children.^ 

Ancient Galen illustrates for us the evils of ancient slavery in 

slavery. . . . .... 

an incident which he relates to show the inadvisability of 

giving way to one's passions, especially anger.^ Returning 
from Rome, Galen fell in with a traveler from Gortyna in 
Crete. When they reached Corinth, the Cretan sent his 
baggage and slaves from Cenchrea^ to Athens by boat, but 
himself with a hired vehicle and two slaves went by land 
with Galen through Megara, Eleusis, and Thriasa. On the 
way the Cretan became so angry at the two slaves that he 
hit them with his sheathed sword so hard that the sheath 
broke and they were badly wounded. Fearing that they 
would die, he then made off to escape the consequences of 
his act, leaving Galen to look after the wounded. But later 
he rejoined Galen in penitent mood and insisted that Galen 
administer a beating to him for his cruelty. Galen adds 
that he himself, like his father, had never struck a slave 
with his own hand and had reproved friends who had broken 
their slaves' teeth with blows of their fists. Others go far- 
ther and kick their slaves or gouge their eyes out. The em- 
peror Hadrian in a moment of anger is said to have blinded 
a slave with a stylus which he had in his hand. He, too, was 
sorry afterwards and offered the slave money, but the latter 
refused it, telling the emperor that nothing could compen- 
sate him for the loss of an eye. In another passage Galen 
discusses how many slaves and "clothes" one really needs.* 

treatment of medicine to the em- now deserted and beset by wild 

peror's great work in repairing beasts so that they would pass 

and improving the roads, straight- through populous towns and more 

ening them by cut-offs that saved frequented areas. The passage 

distance, but sometimes abandon- thus bears witness to a shifting 

ing an old road that went straight of population, 

over hills for an easier route that ^V, 49. 

avoided them, filling in wet and ^ V, 17-19. 

marshy spots with stone or cross- ^ Mentioned in Acts, xviii, 18, 

ing them by causeways, bridging ". . . having shorn his head in 

impassable rivers, and altering Cenchrea : for he had a vow." 

routes that led through places *V, 46-47. 


Galen also depicts the easy-going, sociable, and pleasure- Social 
loving society of his time. Not only physicians but men gen- ^nd wine 
erally begin the day with salutations and calls, then separate 
again, some to the market-place and lavvr courts, others to 
v^atch the dancers or charioteers.^ Others play at dice or 
pursue love affairs, or pass the hours at the baths or in eat- 
ing and drinking or some other bodily pleasure. In the 
evening they all come together again at symposia w^hich bear 
no resemblance to the intellectual feasts of Socrates and 
Plato but are mere drinking bouts. Galen had no objection, 
however, to the use of wine in moderation and mentions the 
varieties from different parts of the Mediterranean world 
which were especially noted for their medicinal properties.^ 
He believed that drinking wine discreetly relieved the mind 
from all worry and melancholy and refreshed it. *'For we 
use it every day." ^ He affirmed that taken in moderation 
wine aided digestion and the blood. ^ He classed wine with 
such boons to humanity as medicines, "a sober and decent 
mode of life," and "the study of literature and liberal dis- 
ciplines." ^ Galen's treatise in three books on food values 
{De aliment oriim faculfatibus) supplies information con- 
cerning the ancient table and dietary science. 

Galen's allusions to Judaism and Christianity are of con- Allusions 
siderable interest. He scarcely seems to have distinguished and ChriT- 
between them. In two passages in his treatise on differences tianity. 
in the pulse he makes incidental allusion to the followers of 
Moses and Christ, in both cases speaking of them rather 
lightly, not to say contemptuously. In criticizing Archi- 
genes for using vague and unintelligible language and not 
giving a sufficient explanation of the point in question, 
Galen says that it is "as if one had come to a school of 

^X, 3-4. Tralles, "He has in most dis- 

*X, 831-36; XIII, 513; XIV, 27- tempers a separate article concern- 

29, and 14-19 on the heating and ing wine and I much doubt 

storage of wine. whether there be in all nature a 

3 jv ^^.7 .rr, "lO""^ excellent medicine than this 

iv, 77/-/y. in the hands of a skillful and 

* Similarly Milward (1733), p. judicious practitioner." 
102, wrote of Alexander of "IV, 821. 


Moses and Christ and had heard undemonstrated laws."^ 
And in criticizing opposing sects for their obstinacy he re- 
marks that it would be easier to win over the followers of 
Moses and Christ.^ Later we shall speak more fully of a 
third passage in De iisu partium^ where Galen criticizes the 
Mosaic view of the relation of God to nature, representing 
it as the opposite extreme to the Epicurean doctrine of a 
purely mechanistic and materialistic universe. This sug- 
gests that Galen had read some of the Old Testament, but 
he might have learned from other sources of the Dead Sea 
and of salts of Sodom, of which he speaks in yet another 
context.^ According to a thirteenth century Arabian biog- 
rapher of Galen, he spoke more favorably of Christians in 
a lost commentary upon Plato's Republic, admiring their 
morals and admitting their miracles.^ This last, as we shall 
see, is unlikely, since Galen believed in a supreme Being who 
worked only through natural law. "A confection ol loachos, 
the martyr or metropolitan," and "A remedy for headache 
of the monk Barlama" occur in the third book of the De 
remediis parabilihus ascribed to Galen, but this third book 
is greatly interpolated or entirely spurious, citing Galen 
himself as well as Alexander of Tralles, the sixth century 
writer, and mentioning the Saracens. Wellmann regards it 
as composed between the seventh and eleventh centuries of 
our era.'' 

Like most thoughtful men of his time, Galen tended to 
believe in one supreme deity, but he appears to have derived 

* Ktihn, VIII, 579, ws eij Mwi)o-ou above passages. Particula 24 

Kal Xpiarov diarpitiriv &<f)iyfj.evos voncop (56), "medici et philosophi cum 

ivawoSeiKTOiP aKouri. aere augmentati non sunt pre- 

' Ibid., p. 6s7,0aTTovyap &PTISTOVS parati ad disciplinam sicut parati 

inrdMuvaovKalXpLarou ixtTa5i56.^€i(v..' fuerunt ad disciplinam moysis et 

I have been unable to find a pas- christi socii predictorum. decimo- 

sage in which, according to Moses tercio megapulsus." 

Maimonides of the twelfth cen- » Kiihn, III, 905-7. 

tmy in h\s Aphorisms iroiTi Galen, ,^^^ ^j ^ XII, 372-5. 

Galen said that the wealthy phy- 5 t- 1 ro A o 

sicians and philosophers of his ^^ F.nlayson (1895) ; PP- 8-9; 

time were not prepared for disci- Uarmck Medtcimsches aus der 

pline as were the followers of altcstav Kirchengeschichte, Leip- 

Moses and Christ. Perhaps it is ^ig, 1892. 

a mistranslation of one of the ® Wellmann (1914), P- 16 note. 


GALEN 139 

this conception from Greek rather than Hebraic sources. 
It was to philosophy and the Greek mysteries that he turned 
for revelation of the deity, as we shall see. Hopeless crim- 
inals were for him those whom neither the Muses nor Soc- 
rates could reform.^ It is Plato, not Christ, whom in an- 
other treatise he cites as describing the first and greatest 
God as ungenerated and good. "And we all naturally love 
Him, being such as He is from eternity." ^ 

But while Galen's monotheism cannot be regarded as of Galen's 
Christian or Jewish origin, it is possible that his argument readers^" 
from design and supporting theology by anatomy made him 
more acceptable to both Mohammedan and Christian read- 
ers. At any rate he had Christian readers at Rome at the 
opening of the third century, when a hostile controversialist 
complains that some of them even worship Galen.^ These 
early Christian enthusiasts for natural science, who also de- 
voted much time to Aristotle and Euclid, were finally ex- 
communicated; but Aristotle, Euclid, and Galen were to 
return in triumph in medieval learning. 

II. His Medicine and Experimental Science 

Galen held as his fundamental theory of nature the view Four 
which was to prevail through the middle ages, that all nat- and four 
ural objects upon this globe are composed of four elements, qualities, 
earth, air, fire, and water,^ and the cognate view, which he 
says Hippocrates first introduced and Aristotle later dem- 
onstrated, that all natural objects are characterized by four 
qualities, hot, cold, dry, and moist. From the combinations 
of these four are produced various secondary quaHties.^ 
Neither hypothesis was as yet universally accepted, however, 
and Galen felt it incumbent upon him to argue against those 

^Kiihn, IV, 816. *Kuhn, X, 16-17. J. Leminne, 

' Kiihn, IV, 815. Les quatre elements, in Memoires 

'Quoted by Eusebius, V, 28, couronnes par I Academie de 

and reproduced by Harnack, Bclgique, vol. 65, Brussels, 1903, 

Medicinisches aus der dltestcn traces the influence of the theory 

Kirchengeschichte, 1892, p. 41, and in medieval thought. 

by Finlayson (1895), pp. 9-10. * Kuhn, XIII, 763-4. 



of atom- 

tion of the 
theory of 
four quali- 
ties in 

who contended that the human body and world of nature 
were made from but one element.^ There were others who 
ridiculed the four quality hypothesis, saying that hot and 
cold were words for bath-keepers, not for physicians to deal 
with. 2 Galen explains that philosophers do not regard 
any particular variety of earth or any other mineral sub- 
stance as representing the pure element earth, which in the 
philosophical sense is an extremely cold and dry substance 
to which adamant and rocks make perhaps the closest ap- 
proach. But the earths that we see are all compound bodies.^ 

Galen rejected the atomism of Democritus and Epicurus, 
in which the atoms were indivisible particles dififering in 
shape and size, but not differing in quality as chemical atoms 
are supposed to do. He credits Democritus with the view 
that such qualities as color and taste are sensed by us from 
the concourse of atoms, but do not reside in the atoms them- 
selves.* Galen also makes the criticism that the mere re- 
grouping of "impassive and immutable" atoms is not enough 
to account for the new properties of the compound, which 
are often very different from those of the constituents, as 
when "we alter the qualities of medicines in artificial mix- 
tures." ^ Thus he virtually says that the purely physical 
atomism of Democritus will not account for what today we 
call chemical change. He also, as we shall see, rejected Epi- 
curus' theory of a world of nature ruled by blind chance. 

Galen of course thought that a dry medicine was good 
for a moist disease, and that in a compound medicine, by 
mixing a very cold with a slightly cold drug in varying pro- 
portions a medicine of any desired degree of coldness might 
be obtained.*^ In general he regarded solids like stones and 
metals as dry and cold, while he thought that hot and moist 
objects tended to evaporate rapidly into air.'^ So he de- 
clared that dryness of solid bodies was incurable, while he 
believed that children's bodies were more easily dissolved 

*Kiihn, I, 428. "XIV, 250-53. 

*Kiihn, X, iii. «yttt o^q 
"Kuhn, XII, 166. ^"^' ^^• 

*I, 417. 'X, 657. 


than adults' because moister and warmer.^ The Stoics and 
many physicians believed that heat prolonged life, but As- 
clepiades pointed out that the Ethiopians are old at thirty 
because the hot sun dries up their bodies so, while the in- 
habitants of Britain sometimes live to be one hundred and 
twenty years old. This last, however, was regarded as prob- 
ably due to the fact that their thicker skins conserved their 
innate heat longer.^ 

As an offset to the evidence which will be presented later Galen's 
of the traces of occult virtues, magic, and astrology in tics'^obso- 
Galen's therapeutics I should like to be able to indicate the lete. 
good points in it. But his entire system, like the four qual- 
ity theory upon which it is largely based, seems now obso- 
lete, and what evidenced his superiority to other physicians 
in his own day would probably strike the modern reader 
only as a token of his distinct inferiority to present practice. 
Eighty odd years of modern medical progress since have 
added further emphasis to Daremberg's declaration that we 
have had to throw overboard "much of his physiology, 
nearly all of his pathology and general therapeutics." ^ 

Nevertheless, we may note a few specimens which per- Some of 
haps represent his ordinary theory and practice as dis- cal no- 
tinguished from passages in which the influence of magic ^'°"^" 
enters. He holds that bleeding and cold drink are the two 
chief remedies for fever.* He notes that children occasion- 
ally resemble their grandparents rather than their parents.^ 
He disputes the assertion of Epicurus — one by which some 
of his followers failed to be guided — that there is no benefit 
to health in Aphrodite, and contends that at certain intervals 
and in certain individuals and circumstances sexual inter- 
course is beneficial.*^ His discussion of anodynes and stu- 
por or sleep-producing medicines shows that the ancients 
had anaesthetics of a sort.'^ He recognized the importance 

X, 872. dcs Klandios Galcnos, 1894, 204 

'XIX, 344-45- pp. 

More recently Galen's Materia * X, 624. 

medico has been treated of in a " XIV, 253-54. 

German doctoral dissertation by ° V, 911. 

L. Israelson, Die materia medica 'X. 817-IQ. 


of breathing plenty of fresh, invigorating, and unpolluted 
air, free from any intermixture of impurity from mines, 
pits, or ovens, or of putridity from decaying vegetable or 
animal matter, or of noxious vapors from stagnant water, 
swamps, and rivers.^ As was usual in ancient and medieval 
times, he attributes plagues to the corruption of the air, 
which poisons men breathing it, and tells how Hippocrates 
tried to allay a plague at Athens by purifying the air by 
fumigation with fires, odors, and unguents.^ 
Two of Two specimens may be given of Galen's accounts of his 

cases. own cases. In the first, some cheese, which he had told his 

servants to take away as too sharp, when mixed with boiled 
salt pork and applied to the joints, proved very helpful to a 
gouty patient and to several others whom he induced to try 
it.^ In the second case Galen administered the following 
heroic treatment to a woman at Rome who was afflicted 
with catarrh to the point of throwing up blood.* He did not 
deem it wise to bleed her, since for four days past she had 
gone almost without food. Instead he ordered a sharp 
clyster, rubbed and bound her hands and feet with a hot 
drug, shaved her head and put on it a medicament made of 
doves' dung. After three hours she was bathed, care being 
taken that nothing oily touched her head, which was then 
covered up. At first he fed her only gruel, afterwards some 
bitter autumn fruit, and as she was about to go to sleep he 
administered a medicament made from vipers four months 
before. On the second day came more rubbing and binding 
except the head, and at evening a somewhat smaller dose 
of the viper remedy. Again she slept well and in the morn- 
ing he gave her a large dose of cooked honey. Again her 
body was well rubbed and she was given barley water and a 
little bread to eat. On the fourth day an older and therefore 
stronger variety of viper- remedy was administered and her 
head was covered with the same medicament as before. Its 
properties, Galen explains, are vehemently drying and heat- 

*X, 843. 'XII, 270-71. 

'XIV, 281. *X, 368-71. 


ing. Again she was given a bath and a little food. On the 
fifth day Galen ventured to purge her lungs, but he returned 
at intervals to the imposition upon her head. Meanwhile 
he continued the process of rubbing, bathing, and dieting, 
until finally the patient was well again, — a truly remark- 
able cure ! 

These two cases, however, do not give us a just compre- His power 
hension of Galen's abilities at their best. In his medical obs«-va- 

practice he could be as quick and comprehensive an observer t'on and 

and as shrewd in drawing inferences from what he observed 

as the famous Sherlock Holmes, so that some of his slower- 
witted contemporaries accused him of possessing the gift 
of divination. His immediate diagnosis of the case of the 
Sicilian physician by noting as he entered the house the 
excrements in a vessel which a servant was carrying out to 
the dungheap, and as he entered the sick-room a medicine 
set on the window-sill which the patient-physician had been 
preparing for himself, amazed the patient and the philo- 
sopher Glaucon^ more than, let us hope in this case in view 
of his profession, they would have amazed the estimable Dr. 

Puschmann has pointed out that Galen employs certain His happy 
expressions which seem happy guesses at later discoveries. ^"^^^^^• 
He writes : "Galen was supported in his researches by an 
extremely happy imaginative faculty which put the proper 
word in his mouth even in cases where he could not possibly 
arrive at a full understanding of the matter, — where he 
could only conjecture the truth. When, for instance, he 
declares that sound is carried 'like a wave' (Kiihn, HI, 644), 
or expresses the conjecture that the constituent of the atmos- 
phere which is important for breathing also acts by burning 
(IV, 687), he expresses thoughts which startle us, for it 
was only possible nearly two thousand years later to under- 
stand their full significance."^ 

'Kiihn, VIII, 2,6^. Finlayson ^Puschmann (iSgr), pp. 105-6. 

(189s), pp. 39-40, gives an English Vitruvius, too, however (V, iii), 

translation of Galen's full account states that sound spreads in waves' 

of the case. like eddies in a pond. 




tests with 
the pulse. 

Galen was keenly alive to the need of exactness in 
weights and measurements. He often criticizes past writers 
for not stating precisely what ailment the medicament rec- 
ommended is good for, and in what proportions the ingredi- 
ents are to be mixed. He also frequently complains be- 
cause they do not specify whether they are using the Greek 
or Roman system of weights, or the Attic, Alexandrine, or 
Ephesian variety of a certain measure.-^ Moreover, he saw 
the desirability of more accurate means of measuring the 
passage of time.^ When he states that even some illustrious 
physicians of his acquaintance mistake the speed of the 
pulse and are unable to tell whether it is slow, fast, or nor- 
mal, we begin to realize something of the difficulties under 
which medical practice and any sort of experimentation 
labored before watches were invented, and how much de- 
pended upon the accuracy of human machinery and judg- 
ment. Yet Galen estimates that the chief progress made 
in medical prognostication since Hippocrates is the gradual 
development of the art of inferring from the pulse.^ Galen 
tried to improve the time-pieces in use in his age. He states 
that in any city the inhabitants want to know the time of 
day accurately, not merely conjecturally ; and he gives di- 
rections how to divide the day into twelve hours by a com- 
bination of a sun-dial and a clepsydra, and how on the 
water clock to mark the duration of the longest, shortest, 
and equinoctial days of the year.^ 

Delicate and difficult as was the task of measuring the 
pulse in Galen's time, he was clever enough to anticipate by 
seventeen centuries some of the tests which modern psy- 
chologists have urged should be applied in criminal trials. 
He detected the fact that a female patient was not ill but in 
love by the quickening of her pulse when someone came in 
from the theater and announced that he had just seen Py- 

^XIII, 435, 893, are two in- 

» V, 80 ; XIV, 670. 

* Various treatises on the pulse 
by Galen will be found in vols. 
V, IX, and X of Kiihp's edition. 

* Galen's contributions to the 
arts of clock-making and time- 
keeping have been dealt with in an 
article which I have not had ac- 
cess to and of which I cannot now 
find even the author and title. 


lades dance. When she came again the next day, Galen had 
purposely arranged that someone should enter and say that 
he had seen Morphus dancing. This and a similar test on 
the third day produced no perceptible quickening in the 
woman's pulse. But it bounded again when on the fourth 
day Pylades' name was again spoken. After recounting an- 
other analogous incident where he had been able to read the 
patient's mind, Galen asks why former physicians have never 
availed themselves of these methods. He thinks that they 
must have had no conception of how the bodily health in 
general and the pulse in particular can be affected by the 
"psyche's" suffering.^ We might then call Galen the first 
experimental psychologist as well as the first to elaborate the 
physiology of the nervous system. 

It would scarcely be fair to discuss Galen's science at Galen's 
all without saying something of his remarkable work in anat- an^^p^ysj, 
omy and physiology. Daremberg went so far as to hold ology. 
that all there is good or bad in his writings comes from good 
or bad physiology, and regarded his discussion of the bones 
and muscles as especially good.^ He is generally considered 
the greatest anatomist of antiquity, but it is barely possible 
that he may have owed more to predecessors and contem- 
poraries and less to personal research than is apparent from 
his own writings, which are the most complete anatomical 
treatises that have reached us from antiquity. Herophilus, 
for example, who was born at Chalcedon in the closing 
fourth century B. C. and flourished at Alexandria under 
the first Ptolemy, discovered the nerves and distinguished 
them from the sinews, and thought the brain the center of 
the nervous system, so that it is perhaps questionable 
whether Payne is justified in calling Galen "the founder of 
the physiology of the nervous system," and in declaring that 

*XIV, 631-34. Muscular Anatomy" at the Inter- 

' C. V. Daremberg, Exposition national Congress of Medical 

des connaissances de Galien sur Sciences held at London in 1913; 

I'anatomie, la physiologic, et la see pp. 389-400 of the volume de- 

pathologie du systemc nervcux, voted to the history of medicine, 

Paris, 1841. J. S. Milne dis- Section XXIII. 

cussed "Galen's Knowledge of 


"in physiological diagnosis he stands alone among the an- 
cients." ^ However, if Galen owed something to Herophilus, 
we owe much of our knowledge of the earlier physiologist 
to Galen.^ 
Experi- Aristotle had held that the heart was the seat of the sen- 

Sss'ection. sitive soul ^ and the source of nervous action, "while the 
brain was of secondary importance, being the coldest part 
of the body, devoid of blood, and having for its chief or 
only function to cool the heart." Galen attacked this theory 
by showing experimentally that "all the nerves originated 
in the brain, either directly or by means of the spinal cord, 
which he thought to be a conducting organ merely, not a 
center." "A thousand times," he says, "I have demon- 
strated by dissection that the cords in the heart called nerves 
by Aristotle are not nerves and have no connection with 
nerves." He found that sensation and movement were 
stopped and even the voice and breathing were affected by 
injuries to the brain, and that an injury to one side of the 
brain affected the opposite side of the body. His public 
demonstration by dissection, performed in the presence of 
various philosophers and medical men, of the connection be- 
tween the brain and voice and respiration and the commen- 
taries which he immediately afterwards dictated on this 
point were so convincing, he tells us fifteen years later, that 
no one has ventured openly to dispute them."* His "experi- 
mental investigation of the spinal cord by sections at differ- 
ent levels and by half sections was still more remarkable." ^ 
Galen opposed these experimental proofs to such unscien- 
tific arguments on the part of the Stoic philosopher, Chry- 
sippus, and others, as that the heart must be the chief organ 
because it is in the center of the body, or because one lays 

^Lancet (1896), p. 1139. chick led Aristotle to locate in it 

* I have failed to obtain K. F. H. the central seat of the soul. 

Mark, Herophilus, ein Beitrag s:ur '' XIV, 626-30. 

Geschichtc der Medicin, Carls- "11, 683, 696, This and the 

ruhe, 1838. other quotations in this para- 

'D'Arcy W. Thompson (1913), graph are from Dr. Payne's Har- 

22-23, thinks that the precedence veian Oration as printed in Tht 

of the heart over all other organs Lancet (1896), pp. 1137-39- 
in appearing in the embryo of the 


one's hand on one's heart to indicate oneself, or because the 
lips are moved in a certain way in saying "I"( eyco).'^ Another 
noteworthy experiment by Galen was that in which, by 
binding up a section of the femoral artery he proved that 
the arteries contain blood and not air or spiritus as had 
been generally supposed.- He failed, however, to perform 
any experiments with the pulmonary veins, and so the no- 
tion persisted that these conveyed "spirit" and not blood 
from the lungs to the heart. ^ 

It has usually been stated that Galen never dissected Did Galen 

the human body and that his inferences by analogy from dissect 

his dissection of animals involved him in serious error con- ^ '?-^":> 


cerning human anatomy and physiology. Certainly he 
speaks as if opportunities to secure human cadavers or even 
skeletons were rare.^ He mentions, however, the possibil- 
ity of obtaining the bodies of criminals condemned to death 
or cast to beasts in the arena, or the corpses of robbers 
which lie unburied in the mountains, or the bodies of in- 
fants exposed by their parents.^ It is not sufficient, he 
states in another passage,^ to read books about human 
bones; one should have them before one's eyes. Alexan- 
dria is the best place for the student to go to see actual ex- 
hibitions of this sort made by the teachers."^ But even if 
one cannot go there, one may be able to procure human 
bones for oneself, as Galen did from a skeleton which had 

^Kiihn, V, 216, cited by Payne. *II, 384-86. 

*Kiihn, II, 642-49; IV, 703-36, e tt 

"An in arteriis natura sanguis , ^ u 1. 

contineatur." J. Kidd, A Cursory ^Augustine testifies in two pas- 

Analysis of the Works of Galen sages of his Dc anima et eius 

so far as they relate to Anatomy origine (Migne PL 44, 475-548), 

and Physiology, in Transactions that vivisection of human beings 

of the Provincial Medical and was practiced as late as his time, 

Surgical Association, VI (1837), the early fifth century: IV, 3, 

299-336. "Medici tamen qui appellantur 

^Lancet (1896), p. 1137, where anatomici per membra per venas 

Payne states that Colombo {De per nervos per ossa per medullas 

re anatomica, Venet. 1559, XIV, per interiora vitalia etiam vivos 

261) was the first to prove by ex- homines quamdiu inter manus 

periment on the living heart that rimantium vivere potuerunt dis- 

these veins conveyed blood from siciendo scrutati sunt ut naturam 

the lungs. corporis nossent"; and IV, 6 

*II, 146-47. (Migne, PL 44, 528-9). 


been washed out of a grave by a flooded stream and from 
the corpse of a robber slain in the mountains. If one can- 
not get to see a human skeleton by these means or some 
other, he should dissect monkeys and apes. 
Dissection Indeed Galen advises the student to dissect apes in any 

case, in order to prepare himself for intelligent dissection 
of the human body, should he ever have the opportunity. 
From lack of such previous experience the doctors with 
the army of Marcus Aurelius, who dissected the body of a 
dead German, learned nothing except the position of the 
entrails. Galen at any rate dissected a great many animals. 
Tiny animals and insects he let alone, for the microscope 
was not yet discovered, but besides apes and quadrupeds 
he cut up many reptiles, mice, weasels, birds, and fish.^ He 
also gives an amusing account of the medical men at Rome 
gathering to observe the dissection of an elephant in order 
to discover whether the heart had one or two vertices and 
two or three ventricles. Galen assured them beforehand 
that it would be found similar to the heart of any other 
breathing animal. This particular dissection was not, how- 
ever, performed exclusively in the interests of science, since 
it was scarcely accomplished when the heart was carried 
off, not to a scientific museum, but by the imperial cooks 
to their master's table.^ Galen sometimes dissected animals 
the moment he killed them. Thus he observed that the 
lungs always sensibly shrank from the diaphragm in a 
dying animal, whether he killed it by suffocation in water, 
or strangling with a noose, or severing the spinal medulla 
near the first vertebrae, or cutting the large arteries or 
veins. ^ 
Surgical Surgical operations and medical practice were a third 

operations, ^ay of learning the human anatomy, and Galen complains 
of the carelessness of those physicians and surgeons who 
do not take pains to observe it before performing an oper- 
ation or cure. He himself had had one case where the 
* n, 537, * II, 619-20. • II, 701. 


human heart was laid bare and yet the patient recovered.^ 
As a young practitioner before he came to Rome Galen 
worked out so successful a method of treating wounds of 
the sinews that the care of the health of the gladiators in 
his native city of Pergamum was entrusted to him by sev- 
eral successive pontifices - and he hardly lost a life. In the 
same passage he again speaks contemptuously of the doctors 
in the war with the Germans who were allowed to cut open 
the bodies of the barbarians but learned no more thereby 
than a cook would. When Galen came from Pergamum to 
Rome he found the professions of physicians and surgeons 
distinct and left cases to the latter which he before had at- 
tended to himself.^ We may note finally that he invented 
a new form of surgical knife.* 

In Galen's opinion the study of anatomy was important Galen's 
for the philosopher as well as for the physician. An under- froJJJ"^"* 
standing of the use of the parts of the body is helpful to design, 
the doctor, he says, but much more so to "the philosopher 
of medicine who strives to obtain knowledge of all nature." ^ 
In the De iisu partium ^ he came to the conclusion that in 
the structure of any animal we have the mark of a wise 
workman or demiurge, and of a celestial mind; and that 
"the investigation of the use of the parts of the body lays 
the foundation of a truly scientific theology which is much 
greater and more precious than all medicine," and which 
reveals the divinity more clearly than even the Eleusinian 
mysteries or Samothracian orgies. Thus Galen adopts the 
argument from design for the existence of God. The mod- 
ern doctrine of evolution is of course subversive of his 
premise that the parts of the body are so well constructed 
for and marvelously adapted to their functions that nothing 
better is possible, and consequently of his conclusion that 
this necessitates a divine maker and planner. 

^IT, 631 ff. cal bearing. 

''XIII, 599-600. Galen states ' X, 454-55. 

that the pontifex's term of * II, 682. 

office was seven months, a fact ^11, 291. 

which perhaps had some astrologi- " IV, 360, et passim. 



the soul. 

No super- 
force in 

In the treatise De foetuum formatione Galen displays a 
similar inclination but more tentatively and timidly. He 
thinks that the human body attests the wisdom and power 
of its maker/ whom he wishes the philosophers would re- 
veal to him more clearly and tell him "whether he is some 
wise and powerful god."^ The process of the formation 
of the child in the womb, the complex human muscular 
system, the human tongue alone, seem to him so wonderful 
that he will not subscribe to the Epicurean denial of any 
all-ruling providence.^ He thinks that nature alone cannot 
show such wisdom. He has, however, sought vainly from 
philosopher after philosopher for a satisfactory demonstra- 
tion of the existence of God, and is by no means certain 

Galen is also at a loss concerning the existence and sub- 
stance of the soul. He points out that puppies try to bite 
before their teeth come and that calves try to hook before 
their horns grow, as if the soul knew the use of these parts 
beforehand. It might be argued that the soul itself causes 
the parts to grow,^ but Galen questions this, nor is he ready 
to accept the Platonic world-soul theory of a divine force 
permeating all nature.^ It offends his instinctive piety and 
sense of fitness to think of the world-soul in such things 
as reptiles, vermin, and putrefying corpses. On the other 
hand, he disagrees with those who deny any innate knowl- 
edge or standards to the soul and attribute everything to 
sense perception and certain imaginations and memories 
based thereon. Some even deny the existence of the rea- 
soning faculty, he says, and affirm that we are led by the 
affections of the senses like cattle. For these men courage, 
prudence, temperance, continence are mere names. "^ 

In commenting upon the works of Hippocrates, Galen 
insists that in speaking of "something divine" in diseases 

^ IV, 687. soul constructs the parts and 

* IV, 694, 696. another soul incites them to vol- 

* IV, 688. untary motion. 
*IV, 700. ejY „j 

' IV, 692 ; II, 537. Others con- " ' 7"^' 

tend, he says (IV, 693), that one *II, 28. 


Hippocrates could not have meant supernatural influence, 
which he never admits into medicine in other passages. 
Galen tries to explain away the expression as having ref- 
erence to the effect of the surrounding air.^ Thus while 
Galen might look upon nature or certain things in nature 
as a divine work, he would not admit any supernatural 
force in science or medicine, or anything bordering upon 
special providence. In the De usu partiiim Galen states 
that he agrees with Moses that "the beginning of genesis in 
all things generated" was "from the demiurge," but that he 
does not agree with him that anything is possible with God 
and that God can suddenly turn a stone into a man or make 
a horse or cow from ashes. "In this matter our opinion 
and that of Plato and of others among the Greeks who 
have written correctly concerning natural science differs 
from the view of Moses." In Galen's view God attempts 
nothing contrary to nature but of all possible natural 
courses invariably chooses the best. Thus Galen expresses 
his admiration at nature's providence in keeping the eye- 
brows and eyelashes of the same length and not letting 
them grow long like the beard or hair, but this is because 
a harder cartilaginous flesh is provided for them to grow 
in, and the mere will of God would not keep hairs from 
growing in soft flesh. If God had not provided the carti- 
laginous substance for the eyelashes, "he would have been 
more careless, not merely than Moses but than a worthless 
general who builds a wall in a swamp." ^ As between the 
views on God of Moses and Epicurus, Galen prefers to steer 
a middle course. 

Already in describing Galen's dissections and tests with Galen's 
the pulse we have seen evidence of the accurate observation mental 
and experimental instincts which accompanied his zest for '"^t*"*^** 
hard work and zeal for truth. In one of his treatises he 

* XVIII B, I7ff. Moses Maimonides in the twelfth 

^ De usu partium, XI, 14 (Kiihn, century took exception at some 

111,905-7). The passage seems to length, in the 2Sth Particula of 

me an integral part of the work his Aphorisms from Galen, to this 

and not a later interpolation. criticism of his national lawgiver. 




confesses that it was a passion of his always to test every- 
thing for himself. "And if anyone accuses me of this, I 
will confess my disease, from which I have suffered all my 
life long, that I have trusted no one of those who narrate 
such things until I have tested it myself, if it was possible 
for me to have experience of it," ^ Galen also recognized 
that general theories were not sufficient for exact knowledge 
and that specific examples seen with one's own eyes were 
indispensable.^ He maintains that, if all teachers and 
writers would realize and observe this, they would make 
comparatively few false statements. He saw the danger 
of making absolute assertions and the need of noting the 
particular circumstances of each individual case.^ Galen 
more than once declared that things, not names, were im- 
portant and refused to waste time in disputing about termin- 
ology and definitions which might be spent in "pursuing the 
knowledge of things themselves." * Thus we see in Galen 
a pragmatic scientist intent upon concrete facts and exact 
knowledge ; but at the same time it must be recognized that 
he accepted some universal theorems and general views. 

Galen did not believe in merely repeating in new books 
the statements of previous authorities. Ever since boy- 
hood, he writes in his Anatomical Administrations, it has 
seemed to him that one should record in writing only one's 
new discoveries and not repeat what has been said already.^ 
Nevertheless in some of his writings he collects the pre- 
scriptions of past physicians at great length, and a previous 
treatise by Archigenes is practically embodied in one of 
Galen's works on compound medicines. On another occa- 
sion, however, after stating that Crito had combined previ- 
ous treatises upon cosmetics, including the work of Cleo- 
patra, into four books of his own which constitute a well- 
nigh exhaustive treatment of the subject, Galen says that 

^IV, 513; see also II, 55, cos ?7w7e 'XIII, 964. 

irpwrov niv &Kovaai t6 yivonevov, kdavfxaaa ''II, 136; X, 3^5 J XII, 3II > he 

Kal avrbs e^ovXrjdijv aiiTowTrjs airov Kara- credited Plato with the same atti- 

CT^j'tti. tude, see II, 581. 

'X, 608; XIII, 887-88. MI, 659-60. 


GALEN 153 

he sees no profit in copying Crito's work again and merely 
reproduces its table of contents.^ On the other hand, as 
this passage shows, Galen thought that the ancients had 
stated many things admirably and he had little patience with 
contemporaries who would learn nothing from them but 
were always ambitiously weaving new and complicated dog- 
mas, or misinterpreting and perverting the teachings of the 
ancients.^ His method was rather first to "make haste and 
stretch every nerve to learn what the most celebrated of 
the ancients have said ;" ^ then, having mastered this teach- 
ing, to judge it and put it to the test for a long time and 
determine by observation how much of it agrees and how 
much disagrees with actual phenomena, and then embrace 
the former portion and reject the latter. 

This critical employment of past authorities is frequently Adverse 
illustrated in Galen's works. He mentions a great many of p^st 
names of past physicians and writers, thereby shedding some writers, 
light upon the history of Greek medicine; but at times 
he criticizes his predecessors, not sparing even Empedocles 
and Aristotle. Although he cites Aristotle a great deal, 
he declares that it is not surprising that Aristotle made 
many errors in the anatomy of animals, since he thought 
that the heart in large animals had a third ventricle.^ As 
we have already seen in discussing the topic of weights and 
measurements, Galen especially objects to the vagueness and 
inaccuracy of many past medical writers,^ or praises in- 
dividuals like Heras who give specific information.^ He 
also shows a preference for writers who give first-hand 
information, commending Heraclides of Tarentum as a 
trustworthy man, if there ever was one, who set down only 
those things proved by his own experience.'^ Galen declares 
that one could spend a life-time in reading the books that 
have already been written upon medicinal simples. He 
urges his readers, however, to abstain from Andreas and 

'XII, 446. 'XIII, 891. 

"11, 141, 179. 6YTTT Ain IT 

"11, 179; X, 609. ^^^^' 430-31. 

*II, 621. ^XIII, 717. 



of Dios- 

tism : logic 
and ex- 

other liars of that stamp, and above all to eschew Pamphilus 
who never saw even in a dream the herbs which he describes. 
Of all previous writers upon materia niedica Galen pre- 
ferred Dioscorides. He writes, "But Anazarbensis Dios- 
corides in five books discussed all useful material not only 
of herbs but of trees and fruits and juices and liquors, treat- 
ing besides both all metals and the parts of animals." ^ Yet 
he does not hesitate to criticize certain statements of Dios- 
corides, such as the story of mixing goat's blood with the 
terra sigillata of Lemnos. Dioscorides had also attributed 
marvelous virtues to the stone Gagates which he said came 
from a river of that name in Lycia; Galen's comment is 
that he has skirted the entire coast of Lycia in a small boat 
and found no such stream.^ He also wonders that Dios- 
corides described butter as made of the milk of sheep and 
goats, and correctly states that "this drug" is made from 
cows' milk.^ Galen does not mention its use as a food in 
his work on medicinal simples, and in his treatise upon food 
values he alludes to butter rather incidentally in the chap- 
ter on milk, stating that it is a fatty substance and easily 
recognized by tasting it, that it has many of the properties 
of oil, and in cold countries is sometimes used in baths in 
place of oil.^ Galen further criticizes Dioscorides for his 
unfamiliarity with the Greek language and consequent fail- 
ure to grasp the significance of many Greek names. 

Daremberg said of Galen that he represented at the same 
time the most exaggerated dogmatism and the most ad- 
vanced experimental school. There is some justification 
for the paradox, though the latter part seems to me the 
truer. But Galen was proud of his training in philosophy 
and logic and mathematics; he stood fast by many Hippo- 
cratic dogmas such as the four qualities theory, he thought ^ 
that in medicine as in geometry there were a certain num- 
*XI, 794; also XIII, 658; XIV, "XII, 272. 

61-62, and many other passages of 
the Antidotes. 

*XII, 203. Pliny, NH XXXVI, 
34, makes the same statement as 

* Pliny, NH XXVIII, 35, how- 
ever, both tells how butter is made 
and of its use as food among the 

"^X, 40-41 


ber of self-evident maxims upon which reason, conforming 
to the rules of logic, might build up a scientific structure. 
In the De methodo medendi ^ he makes a distinction be- 
tween the discovery of drugs and medicines, simple or com- 
pound, by experience and the methodical treatment of dis- 
ease which he now sets forth and which should proceed log- 
ically and independently of mere empiricism, and he wishes 
that other medical writers would make it clear when they 
are relying merely on experience and when exclusively upon 
reason.^ At the same time he expresses his dislike for mere 
dogmatizers who shout their ipse dixits like tyrants with- 
out the support either of reason or experience.^ He also 
grants that the ordinary man, taught by nature alone, often 
instinctively pursues a better course of action for his health 
than "the sophists" are able to advise.* Indeed, he is of the 
opinion that some doctors would do well to stick to experi- 
ence alone and not try to mix in reasoning, since they are 
not trained in logic, and when they endeavor to divide or 
analyze a theme, perform like unskilled carvers who fail 
to find the joints and mutilate the roast. ^ Later on in the 
same work ^ he again affirms that persons who will not read 
and profit by the books of medical authorities and whose 
own reasoning is defective, should limit themselves to ex- 

Normally, however, Galen upholds both reason and ex- Galen's 
perience as criteria of truth against the opposing schools account of 
of Dogmatics and Empirics. The former attacked experi- pirics. 
ence as uncertain and impossible to regulate, slow and un- 
methodical. The latter replied that experience was con- 
sistent, adaptable to art, and proof enough.'^ Galen's chief 
objection to the Empirics is that they reject reason as a cri- 
terion of truth and wish the medical art to be irrational.^ 
"The Empirics say that all things are discovered by experi- 

^X, 127, 962. «X, 915-16. 

'X, 31. 'I, 75-76: XIV, 367. 

\ X, 29. » I, 145 ; II. 41-43 ; X, 30-31, 782- 

*X, 668. 83; XIII, 188, 366, 375, 463, 579, 

X, 123. 594, 892 ; XIV, 245, 679. 


ence, but we say that some are found by experience and 
some by reason." ^ Galen also objects to Herodotus's ex- 
planation of the medical art as originating in the conversa- 
tion of patients exposed at crossroads who told one another 
of their complaints and recoveries and thus evolved a fund 
of common experience.^ Galen criticizes such experience 
as irrational and not yet put into scientific form (ov-koo Xoyut?) . 
Of the Empirics he tells us further that they regard 
phenomena only and ignore causes and put no trust in rea- 
soning. They hold that there is no system or necessary 
order in medical discovery or doctrine, and that some rem- 
edies have been discovered by dreams, others by chance. 
They also accepted written accounts of past experiences and 
thus to a certain extent trusted in tradition. Galen argues 
that they should test these statements of past authorities by 
reason.^ His further contention that, if they test them by 
experience, they might as well reject all writings and trust 
only to present experience from the start, is a sophistical 
quibble unworthy of him. He adds, however, that the Em- 
pirics themselves say that past tradition or "history" 
( taTOpla) should not be judged by experience, but it is 
unlikely that he represents their view correctly in this par- 
ticular. In another passage ^ he says that they distinguish 
three kinds of experience, chance or accidental, offhand or 
impromptu, and imitative or the repetition of the same 
thing. In a third passage ^ he repeats that they held that 
observation of one or two instances was not enough, but 
that oft-repeated observation was needed with all conditions 
the same each time. In yet another place ® he says that the 
Empirics observe coincidences in things joined by experi- 
ence. He himself defines experience as the comprehending 
and remembering of something seen often and in the same 
condition,'^ and makes the good point that one cannot ob- 
serve satisfactorily without use of reason.^ He also admits 

^X, 159- "I. 135. 

' XIV, 675-76. ' XIV, 680. 

*I, T44-SS. 'I, 131. 

'XVI. 82. 'I, 134- 


in one place that some Empirics are ready to employ reason 
as well as experience.-^ 

Having noted Galen's criticism of the Empirics, we may How the 
imagine what their attitude would be towards his medicine, ^i^h*"^^ 
They would probably reject all his theories — which we, too, have 


have finally discarded — of four elements and four qualities Galen, 
and the like, and would accept only his specific recommenda- 
tions for the cure of disease based upon his medical experi- 
ence; except that they would also be credulous concerning 
anything which he assured them was based upon his own 
or another's experience, whether it truly was or not. They 
would, however, have probably questioned much of his 
anatomical inference from the dissection of the lower ani- 
mals, since he tells us that they "have written whole books 
against anatomy." ^ Considering the state of knowledge in 
their time, their refusal to attempt any large generalizations 
or to hazard any scientific hypotheses or to build any risky 
medical system was in a way commendable, but their cre- 
dulity as to particulars was a weakness. 

On the whole Galen's attitude towards experience seems Galen's 
an improvement upon theirs. He was apparently more criti- of "eason 

cal towards the "experiences" of past writers than the and ex- 

average Empiric, and in his combination of reason and ex- 
perience he came a little nearer to modern experimental 
method. Reason alone, he says, discovers some things, 
experience alone discovers some, but to find others requires 
use of both experience and reason.^ In his treatise upon 
critical days he keeps reiterating that their existence is proved 
both by reason and experience. These two instruments 
in judging things given us by nature supplement each other.* 
"Logical methods have force in finding what is sought, but 
in believing what has been well found there are two criteria 
for all men, reason and experience." ^ "What can you do 
with men who cannot be persuaded either by reason or by 

'XVI, 82. *XIII, 1 16-17. 

^11, 288. 

" IX, 842 ; XIII, 887. " X, 28-29. 



only from 

practice ?" ^ Galen also speaks of discovering a truth by 
logic and being thereby encouraged to try it in practice and 
of then verifying it by experience.^ This, however, is not 
quite the same thing as saying that the scientist should aim 
to discover new truth by purposive experiments, or that 
from a number of experiences reason may infer some gen- 
eral law of nature. 

It is perhaps in his work on medicinal simples that Galen 
lays most stress upon the importance of experience. In- 
deed he sees no other way to learn the properties of natural 
objects than through the experience of the senses.^ *'For 
by the gods," he exclaims, "how is it that we know that fire 
is hot? Are we taught it by some syllogism or persuaded 
of it by some demonstration? And how do we learn that 
ice is cold except from the senses ?" * And Galen sees no 
advantage in spending further time in arguments and hair- 
splitting where one can learn the truth at once from the 
senses. This thought he keeps repeating through the trea- 
tise, saying, for example, "The surest judge of all will be 
experience alone, and those who abandon it and reason on 
any other basis not only are deceived but destroy the value 
of the treatise." ^ Moreover, he restricts his account of me- 
dicinal simples to those with which he is personally ac- 
quainted. In the three books treating of plants he does not 
mention all those found in all parts of the world, but only as 
many as it has been his privilege to know by experience.* He 
proposes to follow the same rule in the ensuing discussion of 
animals and to say nothing of virtues which he has not tested 
or of substances mentioned in the writings of past physi- 
cians but unknown to him. He dares not trust their state- 
ments when he reflects how some have lied in such matters. 
In the middle ages Albertus Magnus talks in much the same 
strain in his works on animals, plants, and minerals, and 
perhaps he was stimulated to such ideals, consciously or un- 

^X, 684. 

'X, 454-55. 
•XI, 420. 

'XI, 434-35. 

'XI, 456. 

XII, 246. 

IV GALEN 1 59 

consciously, directly by reading Galen or indirectly through 
Arabic works, by Galen's earlier expression of them. 
Galen mentions some virtues ascribed to substances which 
he has tested by experience and found false, such as the 
medicinal properties attributed to the belly of a seagulP and 
some of those claimed for the marine animal called torpedo.^ 
Anointing the place with frog's blood or dog's milk will not 
prevent eyebrows that have been plucked out from grow- 
ing again, nor will bat's blood and viper's fat remove hair 
from the arm-pits.^ Also the brain of a hare is only fairly 
good for boys' teeth.* 

In beginning his work on food values ^ Galen states that Experi- 

cncG 3.11(1 

many have discussed the properties of aliments, some on the food 
basis of reason alone, some on the basis of experience alone, science, 
but that their statements do not agree. On the whole, since 
reasoning is not easy for everyone, requiring natural sagac- 
ity and training from childhood, he thinks it better to start 
from experience, especially since not a few physicians are 
of the opinion that only thus can the properties of foods 
be learned. 

The Empirics contended that most compound medicines Experi- 
had been hit upon by chance, and Galen grants that the com- 
Dogmatics usually are unable to give reasons for the in- Po^-"<^s. 
gredients of their doses and find difficulty in reproducing a 
lost prescription.^ But he holds that reasons can be given 
for the constituents of the compound and that the logical 
discovery of such remedies differs from the empirical.'^ His 
own method was to learn the nature of each disease and the 
varied properties of simples, and then prepare a compound 
suited to the disease and to the patient.^ On the other hand, 
we see how much depends upon experience from his con- 
fession that sometimes he has hastily prepared a compound 
from a few simples, sometimes from more, sometimes from 
a great variety. If the compound worked well, he would 

'XII, 336. "VI, 453-55. 

•XII, 365. "XIII, 463. 

•XII, 258, 262, 269, 331. ■'XII, 895. 

* XII, 334. ' XIV, 222. 



tions of 

continue to use it, sometimes making it stronger and some- 
times weaker,^ For as you cannot put together compounds 
without rational method, so you cannot tell their strength 
certainly and accurately without experience.^ He admits 
that no one can tell the exact quantity of each ingredient to 
employ without the aid of experience,^ and says, "The 
proper proportions in the mixture we shall find conjectur- 
ally before experience, scientifically after experience." ^ In 
these treatises upon compound medicines, unlike that on 
medicinal simples, Galen gives the prescriptions of former 
physicians as well as some tested by his own experience.*^ 
Sometimes, however, he expresses a preference for the med- 
icines of those writers who were "most experienced" ; and 
once says that he will give some compounds of the more 
recent writers, who in their turn had selected the best from 
older writers of long experience and added later discoveries.® 
We suspect, however, that some of these prescriptions had 
not been tested for centuries. 

Galen gives a few directions how to regulate medical 
observation and experience, although they cannot be said to 
carry us very far on the road to modern laboratory research. 
He saw the value of "long experience," a phrase which he 
often employs.'^ He states that one experience is enough to 
learn how to prepare a drug, but to learn to know the best 
medicines in each kind and in different places many experi- 
ences are required.^ Medicinal simples should be frequently 
inspected, "since the knowledge of things perceived by the 
senses is strengthened by careful examination." ® Galen ad- 
vises the student of medicine to study herbs, trees, and fruit 
as they grow, to find out when it is best to pluck them, how 
to preserve them, and so on. But elsewhere he states that 
it is possible to estimate the general virtue of the simple 

*XIII, 700-701. 
*XIII, 706-707. 
"Xlll, 467. 

*XIII, 867. 

'XII, 392-93, 884; XIII, 116-17, 
123, 125, 128-29, 354, 485, 502-503, 

582, 656. 

"XII, 968, 988. 

'See XII, 988 
XIV, 12, 60, 341. 

«XIV, 82. 

•XIII, S70. 

XIII, 960-61; 


from one or two experiences.-^ However, he suggests that 
their effect be noted in the three cases of a perfectly heahhy 
person, a sHghtly aihng patient, and a really sick man.^ In 
the last case one should further note their varying effects as 
the disease is marked by any excess of heat, cold, dryness, 
or m.oisture. Care should be taken that the simples them- 
selves are pure and free from any admixture of a foreign 
substance.^ "It is also essential to test the relation to the 
nature of the patient of all those things of which great use 
is made in the medical art." ^ One condition to be observed 
in experimental investigation of critical days is to count no 
cases where any slip has been made by physician or patient 
or bystanders or where any other foreign factor has done 
harm.^ Galen was acquainted with physical experiments in 
siphoning, for he says that, if one withdraws the air from 
a vessel containing sand and water, the sand will follow be- 
fore the water, which is the heavier {sic?).^ 

Galen also points out some of the difficulties of medi- Difficulty 
cal experimentation. One is the extreme unlikelihood of experi-*'^^ 
ever being able to observe in even two cases the same com- ment. 
bination of symptoms and circumstances.'^ The other is 
the danger to the life of the patient from rash experiment- 
ing.^ Thus Galen more than once tells us of abstaining 
from testing some remedy because he had others of whose 
effects he was surer. 

In the treatise on easily procurable remedies ascribed Empirical 
to Galen,^ in which we have already seen evidence of later 
interpolation or authorship, some recipes are concluded by 

^XII, 350. book, O Glaucon, ends thus. If it 

*XVI, 86-87; XI, 518. has been useful to you, you will 

* XI, 485. readily follow what I've written 
*XVI, 85. to Salomon the archiater." But 
*IX, 842. then the present second book 
*II, 206. opens with the words (XIV, 390), 
' I, 138. "Since you've asked me to write 

* XVI, 80. you about easily procurable reme- 

* There would seem to be some- dies, O dearest Solon," and goes 
thing wrong, at least with its ar- on to say that the author will state 
rangement as it now stands, for what he has learned from experi- 
the first book ends (XIV, 389) ence beginning with the hair and 
with the words, "This my fourth closing with the feet. 


1 62 



such expressions as, "This has been experienced; it works 
unceasingly," ^ or "Another remedy tested by us in many 
cases." ^ This became a custom in many subsequent medi- 
cal works, including those of the middle ages. One recipe 
is introduced by the caution, "But don't cure anybody un- 
less you have been paid first, for this has been tested in 
many cases." ^ But we are left in some doubt whether we 
should infer that remedies tested by experience are so su- 
perior that they call for cash payment rather than credit, or 
so uncertain that it is advisable that the physician secure his 
fee before the outcome is known. In the middle ages the 
word experimentiim was used a great deal as a synonym for 
any medical treatment, recipe, or prescription. Galen ap- 
proaches this usage, which we have already noticed in Pliny's 
Natural History, when he describes "a very important ex- 
periment" in bleeding performed by certain doctors at 

Indeed Galen appears to have exerted a great influence 
in the middle ages by his passages concerning experience in 
particular as well as by his medicine in general. Medieval 
writers cite him as an authority for the recognition of ex- 
perience and reason as criteria of truth.^ Gilbert of Eng- 
land cites "experiences from the book of experiments ex- 
perienced by Galen," ^ and we shall find more than one such 
apocryphal work ascribed to Galen in the middle ages. 
John of St. Amand seems to have developed seven rules '^ 
which he gives for discovering experimentally the prop- 
erties of medicinal simples from what we have heard Galen 
say on the subject, and in another work, the Concordances, 
John collects a number of passages about experience from 

^ XIV, 378. 

'XIV, 462. 

'XIV, 534. 

^XI, 205. 

°John of St. Amand, Expositio 
in Antidotarium Nicolai, fol. 231, 
in Mesuae niedici clarissimi opera, 
Venice, 1568. Pietro d'Abano, 
Conciliator, Venice, 1526, Difif. X, 
fol. 15; Difif. LX, fol. 83. Arnald 

of Villanova, Repetitio super 
Canon "Vita brevis," fol. 276, in 
his Opera, Lyons, 1532. 

" Gilbertus Anglicus, Compen^ 
dium mcdicinae, Lyons, 15 10, fol. 
328V., "Experimenta ex libro ex- 
perimentorum Gal. experta." 

' In his Expositio in Antido- 
tarium Nicolai, as cited above 
(note 5). 


the works o£ Galen. ^ Peter of Spain, who died as Pope 
John XXI in 1277, cites Galen in his discussion of "the 
way of experience" and "the way of reason" in his Com- 
mentaries on Isaac on Diets. ^ We have already suggested 
Galen's possible influence upon Albertus Magnus, and we 
might add Roger Bacon who wrote some treatises on medi- 
cine. But it is hardly possible to tell whether such ideas 
were in the air, or were due to Galen individually either in 
their origin or their transmission. But he made a rather 
close approach to the medieval attitude in his equal regard 
for logic and for experimentation. 

The more general influence of Galen upon all sides of His more 
the medicine of the following fifteen centuries has often medieval 
been stated in sweeping terms, but is difficult to exaggerate, influence. 
His general theories, his particular cures, his occasional mar- 
velous stories, were often repeated or paraphrased. Ori- 
basius has been called "the ape of Galen," and we shall see 
that the epithet might with equal reason be applied to Aetius 
of Amida. Indeed, as in the case of Pliny, we shall find 
plenty of instances of Galen's influence in our later chap- 
ters. Perhaps as good a single instance of medieval study 
of Galen as could be given is from the Concordances of John 
of St. Amand already mentioned, which bear the alterna- 
tive title, "Recalled to Mind" {Revocativum memoriae), 
since they were written to "relieve from toil and worry 
scholars who often spend sleepless nights in searching for 
points in the books of Galen." ^ Or we may note how the 
associates of the twelfth century translator from the Arabic, 
Gerard of Cremona, added a list of his works at the close 
of his translation of Galen's Tegni, "imitating Galen in 
the commemoration of his books at the end of the same trea- 
tise," as they themselves state.* 

Not that medieval men did not make additions of their 

^J. L. Pagel, Die Concordanciae XXI, 263-65). 

dcs Johannes de Sancto Amando, ^ ed. Lyons, 1515, fols. 19V-20V. 

Berlin, 1894, pp. 102-104. John 'Berlin, 902, I4tli century, fol. 

also wrote commentaries on Galen, 175; Berlin 903, 1342 / .D., fol. 2. 

(Histoire Litteraire de la France, * Boncompagni (1851), pp. 3-4. 



own to Galen. For instance, the noted Jewish philosopher, 
Moses Maimonides, in adding his collection of medical 
Aphorisms to the many previous compilations of this sort 
by Hippocrates, Rasis (Muhammad ibn Zakariya), Mesne 
(Yuhanna ibn Masawaih), and others, states that he has 
drawn them mainly from the works of Galen, but that he 
supplements these with some in his own name and some by 
other "moderns."^ Not that Galen was not sometimes criti- 
cized or questioned. A later Greek writer, Symeon Seth, 
ventured to devote a special treatise to a refutation of some 
of Galen's physiological views. In it, addressing himself 
to those "persons who regard you, O Galen, as a god," he 
endeavored to make them realize that no human being is 
infalHble.^ Among the medical treatises of Gentile da Fo- 
ligno, who was papal physician and performed a public dis- 
section at Padua in 1341,^ is found a brief argument against 
Galen's fifth aphorism.* But such criticism or opposition 

^ Moses ben Maimon, Apho- 
risms, 1489. "Incipiunt aphorismi 
excellentissimi Raby Moyses se- 
cundum doctrinam Galieni medi- 
corum principis . . . coUegi eos 
ex verbis Galieni de omnibus 
libris suis. . . . Et ego protuli 
super his aflforismis quedam dicta 
que circumspexi et ea m.eo nomine 
nominavi et similiter protuli ali- 
quos aphorismos aliquorum mod- 
ernorum quos denominavi eorum 

* Ed. C. V. Daremberg, Notices 
et Extraits dcs manuscrits mcdi- 
caux, 1853, pp. 44-47, Greek text; 
pp. 229-33, French translation. 

* Garrison, History of Medicine, 
2nd edition, 1917, p. 141. But at p. 
151 Garrison would seem mistaken 
in stating that Gentile died in 
1348, for in the MS of which I 
shall speak in the next footnote 
his treatise on critical days is 
dated back in the year 1362: 
"Tractatus de enumeratione die- 
rum creticorum m'i Gentilis anni 
1362," at f ol. 125 ; while at fol. 162 
we read, "Explicit questio . . . 
m'i Zentilis anno Domini 1359 de 

mense marcii, et scripta Pisis de 
mense octobris 1359." It is pos- 
sible but rather unlikely that the 
dates later than 1348 refer to the 
labors of copyists. Venetian MSS 
contain not only a De reductione 
medicinarum isd actum by Gen- 
tile, written at Perugia in April, 
1342 (S. Marco, XIV, 7, 14th cen- 
tury, fols. 44-48) ; but also "Sug- 
gestions concerning the pestilence 
which was at Genoa in 1348," by 
him (S. Marco, XIV, 26, 15th 
century, fols. 99-iGO, consilia de 
peste quae fuit lanuae anno 1348). 
Valentinelli's catalogue of the 
MSS in the Library of St. Mark's 
does not help, however, to clear 
up the question when Gentile died, 
since in one place (IV, 235) Va- 
lentinelli assures us that he died 
at Bologna in 13 10, and in another 
place (V, 19) says that he died at 
Perugia in 1348. 

* Cortona no, early years of 
15th century, fol. 128, Rationes 
Gentilis contra Galenum in quinto 
aphorismi. This MS contains sev- 
eral other works by Gentile da 


GALEN i6s 

only shows how generally Galen was accepted as an author- 

III. His Attitude Towards Magic 

From Galen's habits of critical estimation rather than 
blind acceptation of authority, of scientific observation, care- 
ful measurement, and personal experiment, from his bril- 
liant demonstrations by dissection, and his medical prognos- 
tication and therapeutics, sane and shrewd for his time, — 
from these we have now to turn to the other side of the pic- 
ture, and examine what information his works afford us 
concerning the magic and astrology in ancient medicine, con- 
cerning the belief in occult virtues, suspensions, characters, 
incantations, and the like. We may first consider what he 
has to say concerning magic and divination as he under- 
stands those words, and then take up his attitude to those 
other matters which we look upon as almost equally deserv- 
ing classification under those heads. 

Apollonius of Tyana and Apuleius of Madaura were Accusa- 
not the only celebrated men of learning in the early Roman ^°"^ic° 
Empire to be accused of magic ; we have already alluded to against 
the charges of magic made against Galen by the envious 
physicians of Rome during his first residence in that city. 
It is hard to escape the conviction that at that time learned 
men were very liable to be suspected or accused of magic. 
Indeed, Galen makes the general assertion that when a phy- 
sician prognosticates aright concerning the future course of 
a malady, this seems so marvelous to most men that they 
would receive him with great affection, if they did not often 
regard him as a wizard.^ Soon after saying this, Galen 
begins the story of the prognostications he made and the 
cure he wrought, when all the other doctors took an oppo- 
site view of the case.- One of them then jealously sug- 
gested that Galen's diagnosis was due to divination.^ When 
asked by what kind of divination, he gave different answers 

*XIV, 6oi. »XIV, 605. «XIV, 615. 


at different times and to different persons, sometimes say- 
ing by dreams, sometimes by sacrificing, again by symbols, 
or by astrology. Afterwards such charges against Galen 
kept multiplying.^ As a result, Galen says that since then 
he has not gone about advertising his prognostications like 
a herald, lest the physicians and philosophers hate him the 
more and slander him as a wizard and diviner, but that he 
now reveals his discoveries only to his friends.^ In another 
treatise he represents Hippocrates as saying that a proficient 
doctor should be able to prognosticate the course of diseases, 
but adds that contemporary physicians call such a doctor 
a sorcerer and wonder-worker (7077x0 re /cat ■Kapa.ho^dKoyov') .^ 
Again in his work on medicinal simples ^ he states that he 
abstained from testing the supposed virtue of crocodile's 
blood in sharpening the vision, and the blood of house mice 
in removing warts, partly because he had other reliable eye- 
medicines and cures for warts — such as myrmecia, a gem 
with wart-like lumps, partly because by employing such sub- 
stances he feared to incur the reputation of a sorcerer, since 
jealous physicians were already slandering his medical prog- 
nostications as divination. This last passage affords a good 
illustration of the close connection with magic of certain 
natural substances supposed to possess marvelous virtues, 
while Galen's wart stone also seems magical to the modern 

Galen himself sometimes calls other physicians magicians. 
Certain men with whom he does not agree are called by him 
"liars or wizards or I don't know what to say," ^ and an- 
other man who used mouse dung to excess he calls super- 
stitious and a sorcerer.^ In the same work on simples '^ he 
says that he will list herbs in alphabetical order as Pamphilus 
did, but that he will not like him descend to old wives' tales, 
Egyptian sorceries and incantations, amulets and other mag- 
ical devices, which not only do not belong in the medical art 

'XIV, 625. «XII, 306. 

'XIV, 655. .XII ,07 

'1, 54-55. ' ^ ^• 

'•XII, 263. 'XI, 792-93 


but are utterly false. Pamphilus never saw most of the 
herbs he mentioned, much less tested their virtues, but 
copied anything he found, piling up names, incantations, and 
wizardry. Galen accuses Xenocrates Aphrodisiensis also 
of not having eschewed sorcery, and he notes that medical 
writers have either said nothing about sweat or what is 
superstitious and bordering upon magic.-^ 

Philters, love-charms, dream-draughts, and imprecations Charms 
Galen regards as impossible or injurious, and intends to ^"^ , 
have nothing to do with them. He thinks it ridiculous to workers. 
believe that by such spells one can bewitch one's adversaries 
so that they cannot plead in court, or conceive or bear chil- 
dren. He considers it worse to advertise and perpetuate 
such false or criminal notions in writings than to practice 
such a crime but once.- In one passage,^ however, to illus- 
trate his theory that the gods prepare the sperms of plants 
and animals, and set them going as it were, and afterwards 
leave them to themselves, Galen compares them to the won- 
der-workers — who were perhaps not magicians but men 
similar to our sidewalk fakirs who exhibit mechanical toys— 
who start things moving and then go away themselves while 
what they have prepared moves on artificially for a time. 

Galen's own works are not entirely free from the magi- Animal 
cal devices of which he accuses others. We may begin with fnadmiV^^ 
animal substances, since he himself has testified that the sible in 
use of sweat, crocodile's blood, and mouse's dung is sug- 
gestive of magic. Moreover, he attributes more bizarre 
virtues to the parts of animals than to herbs or stones. In 
a passage somewhat similar to that in which Pliny * ex- 
pressed his horror at the use of human blood, entrails, and 
skulls as medicines, Galen declares that he will not men- 
tion the abominable and detestable, as Xenocrates and some 
others have done. The Roman law has long forbidden eat- 
ing human flesh, while Galen regards even the mention of 
certain secretions and excrements of the human body as 

'XII, 283. "IV, 688. 

"XII, 251-53. '^Natural Historv. XXVIII. 2. 



of ancient 

Parts of 

offensive to modest ears.^ Nevertheless, before long he of- 
fends against his own standard and describes how he ad- 
ministered to patients the very substance which he had be- 
fore characterized as most unmentionable.^ It may also be 
noted that he repeats unquestioningly such a tale as that the 
cubs of the bear are born unformed and licked into shape 
by their mother,^ 

Further milder illustrations of the fact that such nasty 
substances were then not merely recommended in books but 
freely employed in actual medical practice, are seen in the 
frequent use by one of Galen's teachers of the dung of dogs 
who for two days before had eaten nothing but bones,* in 
Galen's own wonderfully successful treatment of a tumor 
on a rustic's knee with goat dung — which is, however, too 
sharp for the skins of children or city ladies,^ and in his dis- 
covery by repeated experience that the dung of doves who 
take little exercise is less potent than that of those who take 
much,^ Galen also says that he has known of doctors who 
have cured many persons by giving them burnt human bones 
in drink without their knowledge.''' 

Galen's medicinal simples include the bile of bulls, hye- 
nas, cocks, partridges, and other animals.^ A digestive oil 
can be manufactured by cooking foxes and hyenas, some 
alive and some dead, whole in oil.^ Galen discusses with 
perfect seriousness the relative strength of various animal 
fats, those of the goose, hen, hyena, goat, pig, and so forth.^^ 
He decides that lion's fat is by far the most potent, with 
that of the pard next. Among his simples are also found 
the slough of a snake, a sheepskin, the lichens of horses, a 
spider's web,^^ and burnt young swallows, for whose intro- 
duction into medicine he gives Asclepiades credit.^^ Of 

'XII, 248, 284-85, 290. 

'XII, 293. 

* XIV, 255. (To Piso on theriac.) 

*XII, 291-92. 

"XII, 298. 

' XII, 304. 

' XII, 342. 

"XII, 276-77. 

"XII, 367-69. 

"XIII, 949-50, 954-55. 

"XII, 343. These form the 
titles of four successive chapters, 
De simplic, XI, i, caps. 19-22. 

" XII, 359. 942-43, 977. 


Archigenes' prescriptions for toothache he repeats that which 
recommended holding for some time in the mouth a frog 
boiled in water and vinegar, or a dog's tooth, burnt, pul- 
verized, and boiled in vinegar.^ Cavities may be filled with 
toasted earth-worms or spiders' eggs diluted with unguent 
of nard. Teething infants are benefited, if their gums are 
moistened with dog's milk or anointed with hare's brains.^ 
For colic he recommends dried cicadas with three, five, or 
seven grains of pepper.^ 

Galen is less confident as to the efficacy for earache of Some 
the multipedes which roll themselves up into a ball, and ^"^^^ icism. 
which, cooked in oil, are employed especially by rural 
doctors.^ He is still more sceptical whether the liver of a 
mad dog will cure its bite.^ Many say so, and he knows of 
some who have tried it and survived, but they took other 
remedies too.^ Galen has heard that some who trusted to 
it alone died. In one treatise "^ Galen discusses the strange 
virtues of the basilisk in much the usual way, but in his work 
on simples ^ he remarks drily that it is obviously impossible 
to employ it in pharmacy, since, if the tales about it be true, 
men cannot see it and live or even approach it without dan- 
ger. He therefore will not include it or elephants or Nile 
horses (hippopotamuses?) or any other animals of which 
he has had no personal experience. 

Galen tries to find some satisfactory explanation of the Doctrine 
strange properties which he believes exist in so many things, virtue 
The attractive power of the magnet and of drugs suggests 
to him that nature in us is divine, as Homer says, and leads 
like to like and thus shows its divine virtues.^ Galen re- 
jects Epicurus's explanation of the magnet's attractive 
power.^° It was that the atoms flowing off from both the 
magnet and iron fit one another so closely that the two sub- 

^ XII, 856. hydrophobia, only tends to make 

' XII, 860. their recovery seem the more 

' XII, 360. marvelous. 

*XII, 366-67. 'XIV, 233. 

'XII, 335. " XII, 250-51. 

• A fact which — one cannot help ® XIV, 224-25. 

remarking — considering the char- "II, 45-48. 
acter of most ancient remedies for 



stances are drawn together. Galen objects that this does not 
explain how a whole series of rings can be suspended in a 
row from a magnet. Galen's teacher Pelops, who claimed 
to be able to tell the cause of everything, explained why- 
ashes of river crabs are used for the bite of a mad dog as 
follows.^ The crab is efficacious against hydrophobia be- 
cause it is an aquatic animal. River crabs are better for 
this purpose than salt water crabs because salt dries up 
moisture. He also thought the ashes of crabs very potent in 
absorbing the venom. But this type of reasoning is unsat- 
isfactory to Galen, who finds the best explanation of all 
such action in the peculiar property, or occult virtue, of the 
substance as a whole. Upon this subject ^ he proposes to 
write a separate treatise, and in the fragment De substantia 
facultatum naturalium ( irepl ovalas rdv ^vclkuiv dvvannav ) he 
again discusses the matter.^ 

Among parts of animals Galen regarded the flesh of 
vipers as especially medicinal, particularly as an antidote 
to poisons. Of the following cures wrought by vipers' flesh 
which Galen narrates '^ two were repeated without giving him 
credit by Aetius of Amida in the sixth, and Bartholomew 
of England in the thirteenth century, and doubtless by other 
writers. When Galen was a youth in Asia, some reapers 
found a dead viper in their jug of wine and so were afraid 
to drink any of it. Instead they gave it to a man near by 
who suffered from the terrible skin disease elephantiasis and 
whom they thought it would be a mercy to put quietly out 
of his misery. He drank the wine but instead of dying re- 
covered from his disease. A similarily unexpected cure was 
effected when a slave wife in Mysia tried to kill her hus- 

^XII, 358-59. Concerning the 
virtue of river crabs we may also 
quote from a story told in Nias 
Island, west of Sumatra: "for 
bad he only eaten river crabs, men 
would have cast their skin like 
crabs, and so, renewing their 
youth perpetually, would never 
have died." — From J. G. Frazer 
(1918), I, 67. The belief that the 

serpent annually changes its skin 
and renews its youth may account 
for the virtues ascribed to the 
flesh of vipers and to theriac in 
the following paragraphs, 

' TTtpi Toip idioTTjTL TJjj oXijs oialas 

' IV, 760-61, ivepyelv rds oialas kot' 
15 lav iKacrT-qv 4>vaLV. 

«XII, 311-15. 


band by offering him a like drink. A third case was that 
of a patient whom Galen told of these two previous cures. 
After resorting- to augTiry to learn if he too should try it 
and receiving a favorable response, the patient drank wine 
infected by venom with the result that his elephantiasis 
changed into leprosy, which Galen cured a little later with 
the usual drugs. A fourth man, while hunting vipers, was 
stung by one. Galen bled him, extracted black bile with a 
drug, and then made him eat the vipers which he had caught 
and which were prepared in oil like eels. A fifth man, 
warned by a dream, came from Thrace to Pergamum. An- 
other dream instructed him both to drink, and to anoint him- 
self with, a concoction of vipers. This changed his disease 
into leprosy which in its turn was cured by drugs which the 
god prescribed. 

The flesh of vipers was an important ingredient in the Theriac. 
famous antidote and remedy called theriac, concerning which 
Galen wrote two special treatises ^ besides discussing it in 
his works on simples and antidotes. Mithridates, like King 
Attains in Galen's native land, had tested the effects of vari- 
ous drugs upon condemned criminals, and had thus dis- 
covered antidotes against spiders, scorpions, sea-hares, aco- 
nite, and other poisons. He then combined the results of 
his research into one grand compound which should be an 
antidote against any and every poison. But he did not in- 
clude the flesh of the viper, which was added with some 
other changes by Andromachus, chief physician to Nero.^ 
The divine Marcus Aurelius used to take a dose of theriac 
daily and it had since come into general use.^ Galen gives 
a long list of ills which it will cure, including the plague 
and hydrophobia,'^ and adds that it is beneficial in keeping 
a man in good health.^ He advises its use when traveling 
or in wintry weather, and tells Piso that it will prolong his 
life.^ He explains more than once''^ how to prepare the 

^ Ad Pisonem de theriaca; De ^ XIV, 271-80. 

theriaca ad Pamphilianum. ° XIV, 283. 

' XIV, 2-3. " XIV, 294. 

"XIV, 217. 'XII, 317-18; XIV, 45-46, 238. 




viper's flesh, why the head and tail must be cut off, how it 
is cleaned and boiled until the flesh falls from the backbone, 
how it is mixed with pounded bread into pills, how the flesh 
of the viper is best in early summer. Galen also accepts the 
legend,^ quoting six lines of verse from Nicander to that 
effect, that the viper conceives in the mouth and then bites 
off the male's head, and that the young viper avenges its 
father's death by gnawing its way out of its mother's vitals. 
The Mar si at Rome denied the existence of the dips as or 
snake whose bite causes one to die of thirst, but Galen is 
not quite sure whether to agree with them. 

Already we have had occasion to refer to Galen's two 
works on compound medicines which occupy the better part 
of two bulky volumes in Kiihn's edition and contain a vast 
number of prescriptions. It is not uncommon for one of 
these to contain as many as twenty-five ingredients. It 
seems unlikely that such elaborate concoctions would have 
been discovered by chance, as the Empirics held, but the 
modem reader is ready to agree that it was chance, if any- 
one was ever cured of anything by one of them. Yet Galen, 
as we have seen, believes that reasons can be given for the 
ingredients and would not for a moment admit that they 
are no better than the messes of witches' cauldrons. He 
argues that, if all diseases could be cured by simples, no 
one would use compounds, but that they are essential for 
some diseases, especially such as require the simultaneous 
application of contrary virtues.- Also where a simple is too 
strong or weak, it can be toned up or down to just the right 
strength in a compound. Plasters and poultices seem al- 
ways to be compounds. Of panaceas Galen is somewhat 
more chary, except in the case of theriac ; he opines that a 
medicine which is good for a number of ills cannot be very 
good for any one of them.' 

Procedure as well as substances suggestive of magic is 
found to some extent in Galen's works. He instructs, for 

*XIV, 238-39. 

' XIII, 371, 374. 

"XIII, 134. 


example, to pluck an herb with the left hand before sunrise.^ 
He also recommends the suspension of a peony to cure epi- 
lepsy.- He saw a boy who wore this root remain free from 
that disease for eight months, when the root happened to 
drop off and the boy soon fell in a fit. When another peony 
root was hung- about his neck, he remained in good health 
until Galen for the sake of experiment removed it a second 
time, whereupon another epileptic fit ensued as before. In 
this case Galen suggests that perhaps some particles from 
the root were drawn in by the patient's breathing or altered 
the surrounding air. In another passage he holds that there 
is no medical reason to account for the virtues of amulets, 
but that those who have tested them by experience say that 
they act by some marvelous antipathy unknown to man.^ A 
ligature recommended by Galen is to bind about the neck of 
the patient a viper which has been suffocated by tying sev- 
eral strings, preferably of marine purple, about its neck.* 
Galen marvels that sterciis lupimim, even when simply sus- 
pended from the neck, "sometimes evidently is beneficial." ^ 
It should not have touched the ground but should have been 
taken from trees or bushes. It also works better, as Galen 
has found in his own practice, if suspended by the wool of 
a sheep who has been torn by a wolf. 

While Galen thus employs ligatures and suspensions and Incanta- 
sanctions magic logic, he draws the line at use of images, characters 
characters, and incantations. In the passage just cited he 
goes on to say that he has found other suspended sub- 
stances efficacious, but not the barbarous names such as 
wizards use. Some say that the gem jasper comforts the 
stomach if bound about the abdomen,^ and some wear it in 
a ring engraved with a dragon and rays,"^ as King Nechepso 
directs in his fourteenth book. Galen has employed it sus- 
pended about the neck without any engraving upon it and 

^XIII, 242, 'XII, 207. 

XI, 859. ' A representation of the 

° XII, 573 ; see also XIII, 256. Agathodaemon ; see C. W. King, 

XI, 860. The Gnostics and their Remains, 

*XII, 295-96. London, 1887, p. 220. 



Belief _ 
in magic 
dies hard. 

On easily 

found it equally beneficial. In illustrating the virtue of 
human saliva, especially that of a fasting man, Galen tells 
of a man who promised him to kill a scorpion by means of 
an incantation which he repeated thrice. But at each repe- 
tition he spat on the scorpion and Galen afterwards killed 
one by the same procedure without any incantation, and 
more quickly with the spittle of a fasting than of a full 

The preceding paragraph gives a good illustration of the 
slow progress of human thought away from magic and 
towards science. Men are discovering that marvels can be 
worked as well without characters and incantations. Simi- 
lar passages may be found in Arabic and Latin medieval 
writers. But while Galen questions images and incantations, 
he still clings to the notions of marvelous virtue in a fast- 
ing man's spittle or in a gem suspended about the neck. 
And these and other passages in which he clung to old super- 
stitions were unfortunately equally influential upon suc- 
ceeding writers, who sometimes, we fear, took them as an 
excuse for further indulgence in magic. Indeed, we shall 
find Alexander of Tralles in the sixth century arguing that 
Galen finally became a believer in the efficacy of incanta- 
tions. Thus the old notions and practices die hard. 

In the treatise on easily procurable remedies, where pop- 
ular and rustic remedies enter rather more largely than in 
Galen's other writings, superstitious recipes are also met 
with more frequently, and, if that be possible, the doses 
become even more calculated to make one's gorge rise, it 
being felt that the unfastidious tastes and crude constitu- 
tions of peasants and the poorer classes can stand more than 
daintier city patients. Another reason for separate consid- 
eration of the contents of this treatise is the possibility, al- 
ready mentioned, that it is interpolated and misarranged, 
and the fact that it is in part of much later date than Galen. 

*XII, 288-89. At II, 163, Galen again accepts the notion that human 
saliva is fatal to scorpions. 


We must limit ourselves to a hasty survey of a few sped- Specimens 
mens of its prescriptions. Following Archigenes, ligatures pgrstitfous 
and crowns are employed for headaches.^ In contrast to contents. 
Galen's previous scepticism concerning depilatories for eye- 
brows we now find a number mentioned, including the blood 
of a bed-bug.^ To cure lumbago,^ if the pain is in the right 
foot, reduce to powder with your right hand the wings of 
a swallow. Then make an incision in the swallow's leg and 
draw off all its blood. Skin it and roast it and eat it en- 
tire. Then anoint yourself all over with the oil for three 
days and you will marvel at the result. "This has been often 
proved by experience." To prevent hair from falling out 
take many bees and burn them and mix with oil and use as 
an ointment.* For a sty in the eye catch flies, cut off their 
heads, and rub the sty with the rest of their bodies.'^ A 
cooked black chameleon performs the double duty of cur- 
ing toothache and killing mice.^ To extract a tooth in the 
upper jaw surround it with the worms found in the tops of 
cabbages; for a lower tooth use the worms on the lower 
parts of the leaves.'^ Pain in the intestines will vanish, if 
the patient drinks water in which his feet have been washed.^ 
A net transferred from a woman's hair to the patient's head 
acts as a laxative, especially if the net is first heated.^ Vari- 
ous superstitious devices are suggested to insure the birth 
of a child of the sex desired.^" Bituminous trefoil, ^^ boiled 
and applied hot, cures snake or spider bite, but let no one 
use it who is not so afflicted or it will make him feel as if 
he was.^^ For cataract is recommended a mixture of equal 
parts of mouse's blood, cock's gall, and woman's milk, 

* XIV, 321. ^ "The Psoranthea bituniinosa oi 
' XIV, 349. Linnaeus. It is found on declivi- 

* XIV, 386-87. ties near the sea-coast in the south 

* XIV, 343. of Europe," says a note in Bostock 
' XIV, 413. and Riley's The Natural History 
-XIV, 427. of Pliny (Bohn Library), IV, 
'XIV, 430. 330. Pliny, too (XXI, 88), states 
*XIV, 471. that trefoil is poisonous itself and 
"XIV, 472. to be used only as a counter- 
^"XIV, 476. And others, "Ut ne poison. 

cui penis arrigi possit," and "Ad " XIV, 491 ; a good example of 

arrectionem pudendi." the power of suggestion. 



signs of 
the tem- 
of internal 

by Mai- 

dried. ^ For pain on one side of the head or face smear with 
fifteen earthworms and fifteen grains of pepper powdered 
in vinegar.- To stop a cough wear the tongue of an eagle 
as an amulet.^ Wearing a root of rhododendron makes 
one fearless of dogs and would cure a mad dog itself, if it 
could be tied on the animal."^ A "confection" covering 
three pages is said to prolong life, to have been used by the 
emperors, and to have enabled Pythagoras, its inventor, who 
began to make use of it at the age of fifty, to live to be one 
hundred and seventeen without disease. "And he was a 
philosopher and unable to lie about it." ^ 

It remains to note what there is in Galen's works in the 
way of divination and astrology. We. are not entirely sur- 
prised that contemporary doctors confused his medical 
prognostic with divination, when we read what he has to 
say concerning the outward signs of hot or cold internal 
organs. In the treatise, entitled Th'e Healing Art (jexyrj 
laTpiKT)),^ which Mewaldt says was the most studied of 
Galen's works and spread in a vast number of medieval 
Latin manuscript translations,'^ he devotes a number of 
chapters to such subjects as signs of a hot and dry heart, 
signs of a hot liver, and signs of a cold lung. Among the 
signs of a cold brain are excessive excrements from the 
head, stiff straight red hair, a late birth, mal-nutrition, sus- 
ceptibility to injury from cold causes and to catarrh, and 

In his commentary on the Aphoristns of Hippocrates 
Galen adds other signs by which it may be foretold whether 
the child will be a boy or girl to those signs already men- 
tioned by Hippocrates.^ Some of these seem superstitious 
enough to us. And it was a case of the evil that men do 
living after them, for Moses Maimonides, the noted Jewish 
physician of Cordova in the twelfth century, in his collection 

*XIV, 498. 
*XIV, 502. 
•XIV. 505. 
*XIV, S17. 
•XIV, 567ff. 

•I, 305-412. 

'GaUn in PW. 

'I, 325-6. 

•XVII B, 212 and 834. 


of Aphorisms, drawn chiefly from the works of Galen, re- 
peats the following method of prognostication : Puerum 
cum primo spermatizat perscrutare, quern si invenis habere 
testiculum dextriim maiorem sinistro, you will know that 
his first child will be a male, otherwise female. The same 
may be determined in the case of a girl by a comparison of 
the size of her breasts. Maimonides also repeats, from 
Galen's work to Caesar on theriac,^ the story of the ugly 
man who secured a beautiful son by having a beautiful boy 
painted on the wall and making his wife keep her eyes fixed 
upon it. Maimonides also repeats from Galen - the story 
of the bear's licking its unformed cubs into shape. ^ 

In another treatise on Diagnosis from Dreams Galen Dreams, 
makes a closer approach to the arts of divination.* He 
states that dreams are affected by our daily life and thought, 
and describes a few corresponding to bodily states or caused 
by them. He thinks that if you dream you see fire, you are 
troubled by yellow bile, and if you dream of vapor or dark- 
ness, by black bile. In diagnosing dreams one should note 
when they occurred and what had been eaten. But Galen 
also believes that to some extent the future can be predicted 
from dreams, as has been testified, he says, by experience.^ 
We have already mentioned the effect of his father's dream 
upon Galen's career. In the Hippocratic commentaries ^ he 
says that some scorn dreams and omens and signs, but that 
he has often learned from dreams how to prognosticate or 
cure diseases. Once a dream instructed him to let blood 
between the index and great fingers of the right hand until 
the flow of blood stopped of its own accord. "It is neces- 
sary," he concludes, "to observe dreams accurately both as 
to what is seen and what is done in sleep in order that you 

^ Partic. 6, Kuhn, XIV, 253. edition of the Aphorisms dated 

'Kijhn, XIV, 255. 1489 and numbered IA.28878 in 

'These passages all come from the British Museum. The same 

the 24th Particula of Maimonides' section contains still other marvels 

Aphorisms, which is devoted es- from the works of Galen. 

pecially to marvels : — "Incipit par- * Kiihn, VI, 832-5. 

ticula xxiiii continens aphorismos *VI, 833. 

dependentes a miraculis repertis * XVI, 222-23. 

in libris medicorum," from an 



Lack of 

in most 
of Galen's 

The Prog- 
of Disease 
by Astrol- 

may prognosticate and heal satisfactorily." Perhaps he 
had a dim idea along Freudian lines. 

In the ordinary run of Galen's pharmacy and therapeutics 
there is very little mention or observance of astrological 
conditions, although Hippocrates is cited as having said that 
a study of geometry and astronomy — which may v^ell mean 
astrology — is essential in medicine.^ In the De methodo 
medendi he often urges the importance of the time of year, 
the region, and the state of the sky.^ But this expression 
seems to refer to the weather rather than to the position of 
the constellations. The dog-star is also occasionally men- 
tioned,^ and one passage ^ tells how "Aeschrion the Empiric, 
... an old man most experienced in drugs and our fellow 
citizen and teacher," burned live river crabs on a plate of red 
bronze after the rise of the dog-star when the sun entered 
Leo and on the eighteenth day of the moon. We are also 
informed that many Romans are in the habit of taking 
theriac on the first or fourth day of the moon.^ But Galen 
ridicules Pamphilus for his thirty-six sacred herbs of the 
horoscope — or decans, taken from an Egyptian Hermes 
book.^ On the other hand, one of his objections to the atom- 
ists is that "they despise augury, dreams, portents, and all 
astrology," as well as that they deny a divine artificer of 
the world and an innate moral law to the soul.'^ Thus athe- 
ism and disbelief in astrology are put on much the same 

Whereas there is so little to suggest a belief in astrology 
in most of Galen's works, we find among them two devoted 
especially to astrological medicine, namely, a treatise on 
critical days in which the influence of the moon upon dis- 
ease is assumed, and the Prognostication of Disease by 
Astrology. In the latter he states that the Stoics favored 
astrology, that Diodes Carystius represented the ancients 

*I, S3. 'X, 688; XIII, 544; XIV, 285. 

*Coeli status, or 1^ KaT&araai^. ■* XII, 356. 

X, 593-96, 625, 634, 645, 647-48, ■'XIV, 298. 

658, 662, 68s, 737. 759-60, 778, 829, " XI, 798. 

etc. 'II, 26-28. 


as employing the course of the moon In prognostications, 
and that, if Hippocrates said that physicians should know 
physiognomy, they ought much more to learn astrology, of 
which physiognomy is but a part.^ There follows a state- 
ment of the influence of the moon in each sign of the zodiac 
and in its relations to the other planets.^ On this basis is 
foretold what diseases a man will have, what medical treat- 
ment to apply, whether the patient will die or not, and if 
so in how many days. This treatise is the same as that as- 
cribed in many medieval manuscripts to Hippocrates and 
translated into Latin by both William of Moerbeke and 
Peter of Abano. 

The treatise on critical days discusses them not by rea- Critical 

son or dogma, lest sophists befog the plain facts, but solely, 

we are told, upon the basis of clear experience.^ Having 
premised that "we receive the force of all the stars above," "^ 
the author presents indications of the especially great influ- 
ence of sun and moon. The latter he regards not as superior 
to the other planets in power, but as especially governing 
the earth because of its nearness.^ He then discusses the 
moon's phases, holding that it causes great changes in the 
air, rules conceptions and birth, and "all beginnings of ac- 
tions," ^ Its relations to the other planets and to the signs 
of the zodiac are also considered and much astrological'tech- 
nical detail is introduced.'^ But the Pythagorean theory 
that the numbers of the critical days are themselves the 
cause of their significance in medicine is ridiculed, as is the 
doctrine that odd numbers are masculine and even numbers 
feminine.^ Later the author also ridicules those who talk 
of seven Pleiades and seven stars in either Bear and the 
seven gates of Thebes or seven mouths of the Nile.^ Thus 
he will not accept the doctrine of perfect or magic numbers 
along with his astrological theory. Much of this rather 

»XIX, 529-30. 'IX, 908-10. 

^XIX, 534-73. ^IX, 913. 

' IX, 794. * IX, 922. 

;iX, 901-2. "IX, 935. 
" IX, 904. 



On the 

of philos- 




long treatise is devoted to a discussion of the duration of a 
moon, and it is shown that one of the moon's quarters is not 
exactly seven days in length and that the fractions affect 
the incidence of the critical days. 

A treatise on the history of philosophy, which is marked 
"spurious" in Kiihn's edition, I have also discovered among 
the essays of Plutarch where, too, it is classed as spurious.-^ 
In some ways it is suggestive of the middle ages. After an 
account of the history of Greek philosophy somewhat in the 
style of the brief reviews of the same to be found in the 
church fathers, it adds a sketch of the universe and natural 
phenomena not dissimilar to some medieval treatises of 
like scope. There are chapters on the universe, God, the 
sky, the stars, the sun, the moon, the viagmis annus, the 
earth, the sea, the Nile, the senses, vision and mirrors, hear- 
ing, smell and taste, the voice, the soul, breathing, the proc- 
esses of generation, and so on. 

In discussing divination ^ the treatise states that Plato 
and the Stoics attributed it to God and to divinity of the 
spirit in ecstasy, or to interpretation of dreams or astrol- 
ogy or augury. Xenophanes and Epicurus denied it en- 
tirely. Pythagoras admitted only divination by hariispices 
or by sacrifice. Aristotle and Dicaearchus admit only div- 
ination by enthusiasm and by dreams. For although they 
deny that the human soul is immortal, they think that there 
is something divine about it. Herophilus said that dreams 
sent by God must come true. Other dreams are natural, 
when the mind forms images of things useful to it or about 
to happen to it. Still others are fortuitous or mere reflec- 
tions of our desires. The treatise also takes up the subject 
of heroes and demons.^ Epicurus denied the existence of 

*Kuhn, XIX, 22-345. Plutarch, 
Opera, ed. Didot, De placitis 
philosophorum, pp. 1065-1114; in 
Plutarch's Miscellanies and Es- 
says, English translation, 1889, 
III, 104-92. The wording of the 
two versions differs somewhat and 
in Galen's works it is divided 

simply into 2>7 chapters, whereas 
in Plutarch's works it is divided 
into five books and many more 

' XIX, 320-21 ; De plac. philos., 
V, 1-2. 

*XIX, 253; De plac. philos., 



either, but Thales, Plato, Pythagoras, and the Stoics agree 
that demons are natural substances, while heroes are souls 
separate from bodies, and are good or bad according to the 
lives of the men who lived in those bodies. 

The treatise also gives the opinions of various Greek Celestial 
philosophers on the question whether the universe or its 
component spheres are either animals or animated. Fate is 
defined on the authority of Heracleitus as "the heavenly 
body, the seed of the genesis of all things." ^ The question 
is asked why babies born after seven months live, while those 
born after eight months die.^ On the other hand, a very 
brief discussion of how the stars prognosticate does not go 
into particulars beyond their indication of seasons and 
weather, and even this Anaximenes ascribed to the effect 
of the sun alone. ^ Philolaus the Pythagorean is quoted con- 
cerning some lunar water about the stars^ which reminds 
one of the waters above the firmament in the first chapter of 

*Kuhn, XIX, 261-62; De placitis 'XIX, 274; De plac. philos., II, 

philosophorum, I, 28 ; " ij 6i et^uap- 19. 
nkvTj e<JTiv aidkpiop awfia. aitkpua r^s- 

T03V ■jr&UTwv ytveaeus." * XIX, 265 ; De plac. philos., 

'XIX, 333. 11,5. 




The sources — Vitruvius depicts architecture as free from magic — 
But himself beheves in occult virtues and perfect numbers — Also in 
astrology — Divergence between theory and practice, learning and art — 
Evils in contemporary learning — Authorities and inventions — Machines 
and Ctesibius — Hero of Alexandria — Medieval working over of the 
texts — Hero's thaumaturgy — Instances of experimental proof — Magic 
jugs and drinking animals — Various automatons and devices — Magic 
mirrors — Astrology and occult virtue — Date of extant Greek alchemy 
^Legend that Diocletian burned the books of the alchemists — Alchem- 
ists' own accounts of the history of their art — Close association of 
Greek alchemy with magic — Mystery and allegory — Experiment: rela- 
tion to science and philosophy. 

"doctum ex omnibus solum neque in alienis locis peregri- 
num . . . sed in omni civitate esse civem." 

— Vitruvius, VI, Introd. 2. 

This chapter will examine what may be called ancient ap- 
plied science and its relations to magic, taking observations 
at three different points, the ten books of Vitruvius on ar- 
chitecture, the collection of writings which pass under the 
name of Hero of Alexandria, and the compositions of the 
Greek alchemists. The remains of Greek and Roman liter- 
ature in the field of applied science are scanty, not because 
they were not treasured, and even added to, by the periods 
following, but apparently because there had thus far been 
so little development in the way of machinery or of power 
other than manual and animal. So we must make the best 
of what we have. The writings to be considered are none 
of them earlier than the period of the Roman Empire but 



like other writings of that time they more or less reflect the 
scientific achievements or the occult lore of the preceding 
Hellenistic period. 

Vitruvius lived just at the beginning of the Empire Vitruvius 
under Julius and Augustus Caesar. He is not much of a chhecture 
writer, but architecture as set forth in his book appears as free 

' , . . from 

sane, straightforward, and solid. The architect is repre- magic, 
sented as going about his business with scarcely any admix- 
ture of magical procedure or striving after marvelous results. 
The combined guidance of practical utility and of high 
standards of art — Vitruvius stresses reality and propriety 
now and again, and has little patience with mere show — per- 
haps accounts for this high degree of freedom from super- 
stition. Perhaps permanent building is an honest, down- 
right, open, constructive art where error is at once apparent 
and superstition finds little hold. If so, one wonders how 
there came to be so much mystery enveloping Free-Masonry. 
At any rate, not only in his building directions, but even in 
his instructions for the preparation of lime, stucco, and 
bricks, or his discussion of colors, natural and artificial, 
Vitruvius seldom or never embodies anything that can be 
called magical.^ 

This is the more noteworthy because passages in the very Occult 
same work show him to have accepted some of the theories nuniber. 
which we have associated with magic. Thus he appears to 
believe in occult virtues and marvelous properties of things 
in nature, since he affirms that, while Africa in general 
abounds in serpents, no snake can live within the boundaries 
of the African city of Ismuc, and that this is a property of 
the soil of that locality which it retains when exported.^ 
Vitruvius also mentions some marvelous waters. One 

^As much can hardly be said mind one forcibly and painfully 

of our present day architects, of the deceits and levitations of 

whose fantastic tin cornices pro- magicians. 

jecting far out from the roofs of ^ De architectura, ed. F. Krohn, 

high buildings and rows of stones Leipzig, Teubner, 1912, VIII, iii, 

poised horizontally in midair, with 24. A recent English translation 

no other visible support than a of Vitruvius is by M. H. Morgan, 

elate glass window beneath, re- Harvard University Press, 1914. 


breaks every metallic receptacle and can be retained only in 
a mule's hoof. Some springs intoxicate; others take away 
the taste for wine. Others produce fine singing voices.-^ 
Vitruvius furthermore speaks of six and ten as perfect num- 
bers and contends that the human body is symmetrical in 
the sense that the distances between the different parts are 
exact fractions of the whole. ^ He also tells how the Py- 
thagoreans composed books on the analogy of the cube, al- 
lowing in any one treatise no more than three books of 216 
lines each.^ 

Vitruvius also more than once implies his confidence in 
the art of astrology. In mapping out the ground-plan of his 
theater he advises inscribing four equilateral triangles with- 
in the circumference of a circle, "as the astrologers do in a 
figure of the twelve signs of the zodiac, when they are mak- 
ing computations from the musical harmony of the stars." * 
I cannot make out that there is any astrological significance 
or magical virtue in this so far as the arrangement of the 
theater is concerned, but it shows that Vitruvius and his 
readers are familiar with the technique of astrology and the 
trigona of the signs. In another passage, comparing the 
physical characteristics and temperaments of northern and 
southern races, which astrologers generally interpreted as 
evidence of the influence of the constellations upon mankind, 
Vitruvius patriotically contends that the inhabitants of Italy, 
and especially the Romans, represent a happy medium be- 
tween north and south, combining the greater courage of the 
northerners with the keener intellects of the southerners, 
just as the planet Jupiter is a golden mean between the ex- 
treme influences of Mars and Saturn. So the Romans are 
fitted for world rule, overcoming barbarian valor by their 
superior intelligence and the devices of the southerners by 
their valor.^ In a third passage Vitruvius says more ex- 
pressly of the art of astrology : "As for the branch of 

^VIII, iii, 16, 20-21, 24-5. *V, vi, I. The wording is that 

* III, i. of Morgan's translation. 

•V, Introduction, 3-4. 'VI, i, 3-4. 9-io. 


astronomy which concerns the influences of the twelve signs, 
the five stars, the sun, and the moon upon human Hfe, we 
must leave all this to the calculations of the Chaldeans, to 
whom belongs the art of casting nativities, which enables 
them to declare the past and the future by means of calcula- 
tions based on the stars. These discoveries have been 
transmitted by men of genius and great acuteness who 
sprang directly from the nations of the Chaldeans ; first of all, 
by Berosus, who settled in the island state of Cos, and there 
opened a school. Afterwards Antipater pursued the sub- 
ject; then there was Archinapolus, who also left rules for 
casting nativities, based not on the moment of birth but on 
that of conception." After listing a number of natural 
philosophers and other astronomers and astrologers, Vitru- 
vius concludes : "Their learning deserves the admiration of 
mankind; for they were so solicitous as even to be able to 
predict, long beforehand, with divining mind, the signs of 
the weather which was to follow in the future."^ 

Such a passage demonstrates plainly enough Vitruvius' Diver- 
full confidence in the art of casting nativities and of weather 5e"^een 
prediction, but it has no integral connection with his prac- theory and 

,•11- .... practice, 

tical architecture or even any necessary connection with the learning 
construction of a sun-dial, which is what he is actually driv- ^"*^ ^^^' 
ing at. But Vitruvius believed that an architect should not 
be a mere craftsman but broadly educated in history, medi- 
cine, and philosophy, geometry, music, and astronomy, in 
order to understand the origin and significance of details 
inherited from the art of the past, to assure a healthy build- 
ing, proper acoustics, and the like. It is in an attempt to air 
his learning and in the theoretical portions of his work that 
he is prone to occult science. But the practical processes 
of architecture and military engineering are free from it. 

The attitude of Vitruvius towards other architects of Evils in 
his own age, to past authorities, and to personal experimen- porlry ' 
tation is of interest to note, and roughly parallels the atti- learning. 
tude of Galen in the field of medicine. Like Galen he com- 
* IX, vi, 2-3, Morgan's translation. 



ties and 

plains that the artist must plunge into the social life of the 
day in order to gain professional success and recognition.^ 
"And since I observe that the unlearned rather than the 
learned are held in high favor, deeming it beneath me to 
struggle for honors with the unlearned, I will rather demon- 
strate the virtue of our science by this publication." ^ He 
also objects to the self-assertion and advertising of them- 
selves in which many architects of his time indulge.^ He 
recognizes, however, that the state of affairs was much the 
same in time past, since he tells a story how the Macedonian 
architect, Dinocrates, forced himself upon the attention of 
Alexander the Great solely by his handsome and stately ap- 
pearance,* and since he asserts that the most famous artists 
of the past owe their celebrity to their good fortune in work- 
ing for great states or men, while other artists of equal 
merit are seldom heard of.^ He also speaks of those who 
plagiarize the writings of others, especially of the men of 
the past.^ But all this does not lead him to despair of art 
and learning; rather it confirms him in the conviction that 
they alone are really worth while, and he quotes several 
philosophers to that effect, including the saying of Theo- 
phrastus that "the learned man alone of all others is no 
stranger even in foreign lands . . . but is a citizen in every 
city." ' 

In contradistinction to the plagiarists Vitruvius expresses 
his deep gratitude to the men of the past who have written 
books, and gives lists of his authorities,^ and declares that 
"the opinions of learned authors . . . gain strength as time 

^III, Introduction, 3,". . . There 
should be the greatest indignation 
when, as often, good judges are 
flattered by the charm of social 
entertainments into an approba- 
tion which is a mere pretence." 

^ Idem. 

'VI, Introduction, 5. 

* II, Introduction. Vitruvius 
continues, "But as for rtie. Em- 
peror, nature has not given me 
stature, age has marred my face, 
and my strength is impaired by 

ill health. Therefore, since these 
advantages fail me, I shall win 
your approval, as I hope, by the 
help of my knowledge and my 

" III, Introduction, 2. 

*VII, Introduction, i-io. 

'VI, Introduction, 2. Also IX, 
Introduction, where authors are 
declared superior to the victorious 
athletes in the Olympian, Pythian, 
Isthmian, and Nemean games. 

"VII, Introd., 11-14; IX, Introd. 


goes on." * "Relying upon such authorities, we venture to 
produce new systems of instruction." ^ Or, as he says in 
discussing the properties of waters, "Some of these things 
I have seen for myself, others I have found written in Greek 
books." ^ But in describing sun-dials he frankly remarks, 
"I will state by whom the different classes and designs of 
dials have been invented. For I cannot invent new kinds 
myself at this late day, nor do I think that I ought to dis- 
play the inventions of others as my own." * He also gives 
an account of a number of notable miscellaneous discoveries 
and experiments by past mathematicians and physicists.^ 
Also he sometimes repeats the instruction which he had re- 
ceived from his teachers. Like Pliny a little later he thinks 
that in some respects artistic standards have been lowered 
in his own time, notably in fresco-painting.^ But also, like 
Galen, he once admits that there are still good men in his 
own profession besides himself, affirming that "our archi- 
tects in the old days, and a good many even in our own 
times, have been as great as those of the Greeks." '^ He de- 
scribes a basilica which he himself had built at Fano.^ 

Vitruvius's last book is devoted to machines and mili- Machines 
tary engines. Here he makes a feeble effort to introduce Qesibius 
the factor of astrological influence, asserting that "all ma- 
chinery is derived from nature, and is founded on the teach- 
ing and instruction of the revolution of the firmament." ^ 
Among the devices described is the pump of Ctesibius of 
Alexandria, the son of a barber.^° He had already been 
mentioned in the preceding book ^^ for the improvements 
which he introduced in water-clocks, especially regulating 
their flow according to the changing length of the hours of 
the day in summer and winter. Vitruvius also asserts that 
he constructed the first water organs, that he "discovered 

'IX, Introd., 17. 'VII, Introd., 18. 

;vn, Introd., 10. «V, i, 6-ia 

'VIII, in, 27. »Y ;\, 
* IX, vii, 7. -^' '' 4- 

''IX, Introd. "X, vii. 

'VII, V. "IX, viii. 


the natural pressure of the air and pneumatic principles, . . . 
devised methods of raising water, automatic contrivances, 
and amusing things of many kinds, . . . blackbirds singing 
by means of vi^aterworks, and angohatae, and figures that 
drink and move, and other things that have been found to 
be pleasing to the eye and the ear." ^ Vitruvius states that 
of these he has selected those that seemed most useful and 
necessary and that the reader may turn to Ctesibius's own 
works for those which are merely amusing. Pliny more 
briefly mentions the invention of pneumatics and water or- 
gans by Ctesibius.^ 

This characterization by Vitruvius of the writings of 
Ctesibius also applies with astonishing fitness to some of the 
works current under the name of Hero of Alexandria," ^ who 
is indeed in a Vienna manuscript of the Belopoiika spoken 
of as the disciple or follower of Ctesibius.* Hero, however, 
is not mentioned either by Vitruvius or Pliny, and it is now 
generally agreed as a result of recent studies that he belongs 
to the second century of our era.^ His writings are objec- 
tive and impersonal and tell us much less about himself than 
Vitruvius's introductions to the ten books of De architectura. 

nX, viii, 2 and 4; X, vii, 4. appeared, 1899, 1900, 1903, 1912, 

'NH, VII, 38. 1914, including respectively, the 

*The' work of Martin, Recher- Pneumatics and Automatic _ The- 

ches sur la vie et les ouvrages ater, the Mechanics and Mirrors, 

d'Heron d'Alexandrie, Paris, 1854, the Metrics and Dioptra, the 

and the accounts of Hero in his- DeHnitions and geometrical re- 

tories of physics and mathematics mains, Stereometrica and De 

such as those of Heller and Cajori, mensuris and De geodaesia. For 

must now be supplemented by the the Belopoiika or work on mili- 

long article in Pauly and Wissowa, tary engines see C. Wescher, 

Realencyclopddie der classischen Poliorcctique des Grecs, Paris, 

Altertums-imssenschaft, (1912), 1867. In English we have The 

cols. 992-1080. A recent briefer Pneumatics of Hero of Alex- 

summary in English is the article andria, translated for Bennet 

by T. L. Heath, EB, nth edition, Woodcroft by J. G. Greenwood, 

XIII, 378. See also Hammer- London, 1851. A number of ar- 

Jensen, Ptolemaios und Heron, in tides on Hero by Heiberg, Carra 

Hermes, XLVIII (1913), p. 224, de Vaux, Schmidt, and others will 

et seq. be found in Bibliotheca Mathe- 

The writings ascribed to Hero, matica and Sudhoff's Archiv f. d. 

hitherto scattered about in vari- Gesch. d. Naturiviss. u. d. Tech- 

ous for the most part inacces- nik. 

sible editions and MSS, are now * irapi 'HpajTOj KTT7cri/3foi;. 

appearing in a single Teubner "Heath in EB, XIII, 378; Hei- 

edition, of which five vols, have berg (1914). V, ix. 


The similarity in content of his writings to those of the 
much earher Ctesibius as well as the character of his ter- 
minology suggest that he stands at the end of a long develop- 
ment. He speaks of his own discoveries, but perhaps in 
the main simply continues and works over the previous prin- 
ciples and mechanisms of men like Ctesibius. As things 
stand, however, his works constitute our most important, 
and often our only, source for the history of exact science 
and of technology in antiquity.^ 

Not only does Hero seem to have been in large measure Medieval 
a compiler and continuer of previous science, his works also "^^^j. ^^^ 
have evidently been worked over and added to in subsequent ^^e texts, 
periods and bear marks of the Byzantine, Arabian, and medi- 
eval Latin periods as well as of the Hellenistic and Roman. 
Indeed Heiberg regards the Geometry and De stereometricis 
and De mensuris as later Byzantine collections which have 
perhaps made some use of the works of Hero, while the De 
geodaesia is an epitome of, or extract from, a pseudo- 
Heronic collection. The Catoptrica is known only from the 
Latin translation of 1269, probably by William of Moerbeke, 
and long known as Ptolemy on Mirrors. It appears, how- 
ever, to be directly translated from the Greek and not from 
the Arabic. The Mechanics, on the other hand, is known 
only from the Arabic translation by Costa ben Luca. Of 
the Pneumatics we have Greek, Arabic, and Latin versions. 
It was apparently known to the author of the thirteenth cen- 
tury Summa philosophiae ascribed to Robert Grosseteste, 
since he speaks of the investigations of vacuums made by 
"Hero, that eminent philosopher, with the aid of water- 
clocks, siphons, and other instruments." ^ Scholars are of 
the opinion that the Arabic adaptation, which is of popular 
character and limited to the entertaining side, comes closer to 
the original Greek version of Hero's time than does the Latin 
version which devotes more attention to experimental phys- 
ics. The Automatic Theater, for which there is the same 
* PW, Heron. * Baur (1912), p. 417. 






of experi- 

chief manuscript as for the Pneumatics, also seems to have 
been worked over and added to a great deal. 

From Vitruvius's allusions to the works of Ctesibius and 
from a survey of those works current under Hero's name 
which are chiefly concerned with mechanical contrivances 
and devices, the modern reader gets the impression that, aside 
from military engines and lifting appliances, the science of 
antiquity was applied largely to purposes of entertainment 
rather than practical usefulness. However, in Hero's case 
at least there is something more than this. His apparatus 
and experiments are not intended so much to divert as to 
deceive the spectator, and not so much to amuse as to as- 
tound him. The mechanism is usually concealed ; the cause 
acts indirectly, intermediately, or from a distance to pro- 
duce an apparently marvelous result. It is a case of thau- 
maturgy, as Hero himself says,^ of apparent magic. In fine, 
the experimental and applied scientist is largely interested 
in vying with the feats of the magicians or supplying the 
temples and altars of religion with pseudo-miracles. 

The introduction or proemium to the Pneumatics is 
rather more truly scientific and has been called an unusual 
instance in antiquity of the use as proof of purposive ob- 
servation of nature and experiment. Thus the existence of 
air is demonstrated by the experiment of pressing an in- 
verted vessel, kept carefully upright, into water, which will 
not enter the vessel because of the resistance offered by the 
air already within the vessel. Or the elasticity of air and 
the existence of empty spaces between its particles is shown 
by the experiment of blowing more air into a globe through 
a siphon, and then holding one's finger over the orifice. As 
soon as the finger is removed the surplus air rushes out 
with a loud report. Along with such admirable experimental 
proof, however, the introduction contains some astonishingly 
erroneous assertions, such as that "slime and mud are trans- 
formations of water into earth," and that air released from 

^ In the first chapter of the structed such things thaumaturges 
Automatic Theater he says, "The because of the astounding charac- 
ancicnls called those who con- tcr of tlie spectacle." 


a vessel under water "is transformed so as to become water." 
Hero believes that heat and light rays are particles of matter 
which penetrate the interstices between the particles com- 
posing air and water. 

The Pneumatics consist of some seventy-eight theorems Magic 
or experiments or tricks, call them what you will, which in ^j^fn^lng 
different manuscripts and editions are variously grouped in animals. 
a single book or two books. The same idea or method, 
however, is often repeated in the different chapters. Thus 
we encounter over half a dozen times the magic water-jar 
or drinking horn from which either wine or water or a mix- 
ture of both can be poured, or a choice of other liquids. 
And in all these cases the explanation of the trick is the 
same. When the air-hole in the top of the vessel is closed 
so that no air can enter, the liquid will not flow out through 
the narrow orifice in the bottom. Changes are rung on this 
principle by means of inner compartments and connecting 
tubes. Different kinds of siphons, the bent, the enclosed, 
and the uniform discharge, are described in the opening chap- 
ters and are utilized in working the ensuing wonders, such 
as statues of animals which drink water offered to them, 
inexhaustible goblets or those that will not overflow, and 
harmonious jars. By this last expression is meant pairs of 
vessels, secretly connected by tubes and so arranged that 
nothing will flow from one until the other is filled, when 
wine will pour from one jar and water from the other. Or 
when water is poured into one jar, wine or mixed wine and 
water flows from the other. Or, when water is drawn off 
from one jar, wine flows from the other. Other vessels 
are made to commence or cease to pour out wine or water, 
when a little water is poured in. Others will receive no 
more water once you have ceased pouring it in, no matter 
how little may have been poured in, or, when you cease for 
a moment to pour water in and then begin again, will not 
resume their outpour until half full. In another case the 
water will not flow out of a hole in the bottom of the ves- 
sel at all until the vessel is entirely filled. Others are made 



tons and 


to flow by dropping a coin in a slot or working a lever, or 
turning a wheel. In the last case the vessel of water is con- 
cealed behind the entrance column of a temple. In one magic 
drinking horn the flow of water from the bottom is checked 
by putting a cover over the open top. When another pitcher 
is tipped up, the same amount of liquid will always fk)w out. 

In half a dozen chapters mechanical birds are made to 
sing by driving air through a pipe by the pressure of flowing 
water. In other chapters a dragon is made to hiss and a 
thyrsus to whistle by similar methods. By the force of 
compressed air water is made to spurt forth and automatons 
to sound trumpets. The heat of the sun's rays is used to 
warm air which expands and causes water to trickle out. In 
a number of cases as long as a fire burns on an altar the 
expansion of enclosed air caused thereby opens temple 
doors by the aid of pulleys, or causes statues to pour liba- 
tions, dancing figures to revolve, and a serpent to hiss. The 
force of steam is used to support a ball in mid-air, revolve 
a sphere, and make a bird sing or a statue blow a horn. In- 
exhaustible lamps are described as well as inexhaustible 
goblets, and a self -trimmed lamp in which a float resting on 
the oil turns a cog-wheel which pushes up the wick as it and 
the oil are consumed. Floats and cog-wheels are also used in 
some of the tricks already mentioned. In another the flow 
of a liquid from a vessel is regulated by a float and a lever. 
Cog-wheels are also employed in constructing the neck of 
an automaton so that it can be cut completely through with 
a knife and yet the head not be severed from the body. A 
cupping glass, a syringe, a fire engine pump with valves 
and pistons, a hydraulic organ and one worked by wind 
pretty much exhaust the contents of the Pneumatics. In its 
introduction Hero alludes to his treatise in four books on 
water-clocks, but this is not extant. Hero's water-organ is 
regarded as more primitive than that described by Vitruvius.* 

If magic jugs and marvelous automatons make up most 
of the contents of the Pneumatics and Automatic Theater, 

*PW, 1045. 


comic and magic mirrors play a prominent part m the 
Catoptrics. The spectator sees himself upside down, with 
three eyes, two noses, or an otherwise distorted counte- 
nance. By means of two rectangular mirrors which open and 
close on a common axis Pallas is made to spring from the 
head of Zeus. Instructions are given how to place mirrors 
so that the person approaching will see no reflection of him- 
self but only whatever apparition you select for him to see. 
Thus a divinity can be made suddenly to appear in a temple. 
Clocks are also described where figures appear to announce 
the hours. 

Hero displays a slight tendency in the direction of as- Astrology 
trology, discussing the music of the spheres in the first ^?^ occult 
chapters of the Catoptrics, and in the Pneumatics describing 
an absurdly simple representation of the cosmos by means 
of a small sphere placed in a circular hole in the partition 
between two halves of a transparent sphere of glass. One 
hemisphere is to be filled with water, probably in order to 
support the ball in the center.^ The marvelous virtues of 
animals other than automatons are rather out of his line, but 
he alludes to the virtue of the marine torpedo which can 
penetrate bronze, iron, and other bodies. 

Although we have seen some indications of its earlier ex- Date 01 
istence in Egypt, alchemy seems to have made its appear- q^^^^^ 
ance in the ancient Greek-speaking and Latin world only at alchemy. 
a late date. There seems to be no allusion to the subject 
in classical literature before the Christian era, the first men- 
tion being Pliny's statement that Caligula made gold from 
orpiment.^ The papyri containing alchemistic texts are of 

^But perhaps this is a medieval came the planets, then the sun"^ 

interpolation in the nature of a Orr (1913), P- 63 and Fig. 13. 

crude Christian attempt to depict See also K. Tittel, "Das Weltbild 

"the firmament in the midst of the bei Heron," in Bibl. Math. (1907- 

waters" (Genesis, I, 6). However, 1908), pp. ii3-7- 

it also somewhat resembles the ^ Berthelot (1885), pp. 68-9. For 

universe of the Greek philosopher, the following account of Greek 

Leucippus, who "made the earth a alchemy I have followed Berthe- 

hemisphere with a hemisphere of lot's three works, Les Origines de. 

air above, the whole surrounded I'Alchimie, 1885; Collection des 

by the supporting crystal sphere ancicns Alchimistes Grecs, 3 vols., 

which held the moon. Above this 1887-1888; Introduction a I'Btude 



that Dio- 
the books 
of the 

the third century, and the manuscripts containing Greek 
works of alchemy, of which the oldest is one of the eleventh 
century in the Library of St. Mark's, seem to consist of 
works or remnants of works written in the third century 
and later, many being Byzantine compilations, excerpts, or 
additions. Also Syncellus, the polygraph of the eighth 
century, gives some extracts from the alchemists. 

Syncellus and other late writers ^ are our only extant 
sources for the statement that Diocletian burned the books 
of the alchemists in Egypt, so that they might not finance 
future revolts against him. If the report be true, one would 
fancy that the imperial edict would be more effective as a 
testimonial to the truth of transmutation in encouraging the 
art than it would be in discouraging it by destroying a cer- 
tain amount of its literature. Thus the edict would resemble 
the occasional laws of earlier emperors banishing the 
astrologers — except their own — from Rome or Italy because 
they had been too free in predicting the death of the emperor, 
which only serve to show what a hold astrology had both on 
emperors and people. But the report concerning Diocletian 
sounds improbable on the face of it and must be doubted for 
want of contemporary evidence. Certainly we are not justi- 
fied in explaining the air of secrecy so often assumed by 
writers on alchemy as due to the fear of persecution which 
this action of Diocletian ^ or the fear of being accused of 
magic aroused in them. Persons who wish to keep matters 
secret do not rush into publication, and the air of secrecy of 
the alchemists is too often evidently assumed for purposes of 

de la Chimie, 1889. Berthelot 
made a good many books from 
too few MSS; went over the same 
ground repeatedly ; and sometimes 
had to correct his previous state- 
ments ; but still remains the full- 
est account of the subject. E. O. 
V. Lippmann, Entstehung und Aus- 
breitung der Alchemie, 1919, is 
still based largely on Berthelot's 
publications. In English see C. 
A. Browne, "The Poem of the 
Philosopher Theophrastos upon 
the Sacred Art : A Metrical 

Translation with Comments upon 
the History of Alchemy," in The 
Scientific Monthly, September, 
1920, pp. 193-214. 

^ The earliest of them is John 
of Antioch of the reign of Herac- 
lius, about 620 A.D., although 
they seem to use Panodorus, an 
Egyptian monk of the reign of 
Arcadius. Even he would be a 
century removed from the event. 

'Berthelot (1885), pp. 26, 72, 
etc., took this story about Diocle- 
tian far too seriously. 


show and to impress the reader with the idea that they really 
have something to hide. Sometimes the alchemists them- 
selves realize that this adoption of an air of secrecy has been 
overdone. Thus Olympiodorus wrote in the early fifth cen- 
tury, "The ancients were accustomed to hide the truth, to 
veil or obscure by allegories what is clear and evident to 
everybody." ^ Nor can we accept the story of Diocletian's 
burning the books of alchemy as the reason why none have 
reached us which can be certainly dated as earlier than the 
third century. 

The alchemists themselves, of course, claimed for their Akhem- 
art the highest antiquity. Zosimus of Panopolis, who seems account" 
to have written in the third century, says that the fallen an- of the 
gels instructed men in alchemy as well as in the other arts, their art. 
and that it was the divine and sacred art of the priests and 
kings of Egypt, who kept it secret. We also have an address 
of Isis to her son Horus repeating the revelation made by 
Amnael, the first of the angels and prophets. To Moses are 
ascribed treatises on domestic chemistry and doubling the 
weight of gold.^ The manuscripts of the Byzantine period 
discuss what "the ancients" meant by this or that, or purport 
to repeat what someone else said of some other person. 
Zosimus seems fond of citing himself in the texts repro- 
duced by Berthelot, so that it may be questioned how much 
of his original works has been preserved. Hermes is often 
cited by the alchemists, although no work of alchemy as- 
cribed to him has reached us from this early period. To 
Agathodaemon is ascribed a commentary on the oracle of 
Orpheus addressed to Osiris, dealing with the whitening and 

^Berthelot (1885), 192-3. third century, later when he had 
* But the Labyrinth of Solomon, secured the collaboration of 
Avhich Berthelot (1885), p. 16, had Ruelle (1888), I, 156-7, and III, 
cited as an example of the sort of 41, he had to admit was not even 
ancient magic figures which had as old as the eleventh century MS 
been largely obliterated by Chris- in which it occurred but was an 
tians, and of the antiquity of addition in writing of the four- 
alchemy among the Jews {ihid., p. teenth century and "a cabalistic 
54), although he granted {ibid., work of the middle ages which 
p. 171) that it might not be as old does not belong to the old tradi- 
as the Papyrus of Leyden of the tion of the Greek alchemists." 


yellowing of metals and other alchemical recipes. Other 
favorite authorities are Ostanes, whom we have elsewhere 
heard represented as the introducer of magic into the Greek 
world, and the philosopher Democritus, whom the alchem- 
ists represent as the pupil of Ostanes and whom we have 
already heard Pliny charge with devotion to magic. Seneca 
says in one of his letters that Democritus discovered a proc- 
ess to soften ivory, that he prepared artificial emerald, and 
colored vitrified substances. Diogenes Laertius ascribes to 
him a work on the juices of plants, on stones, minerals, 
metals, colors, and coloring glass. This was possibly the 
same as the four books on coloring gold, silver, stones, and 
purple ascribed to Democritus by Synesius in the fifth, and 
Syncellus in the eighth, century. More recent presumably 
than Ostanes and Democritus are the female alchemists, Cleo- 
patra and Mary the Jewess, although one text represents 
Ostanes and his companions as conversing with Cleopatra. 
A few of the spurious works ascribed to these authors may 
have come into existence as early as the Hellenistic period, 
but those which have reached us, at least in their present 
form, seem to bear the marks of the Christian era and later 
centuries of the Roman Empire, if not of the early medieval 
and Byzantine periods. And those authors whose names 
seem genuine : Zosimus, Synesius, Olympiodorus, Stephanus, 
are of the third, fourth and fifth centuries, at the earliest. 
Close The associations of the names above cited and the fact 

association ^j^^^ pseudo-literature forms so large a part of the early lit- 
alchemy erature of alchemy suggest its close connection at that time 
with magic. Whereas Vitruvius, although not personally in- 
hospitable to occult theory, showed us the art of architecture 
free from magic, and Hero told how to perform apparent 
magic by means of mechanical devices and deceits, the Greek 
alchemists display entire faith in magic procedure with which 
their art is indissolubly intermingled. Indeed the papyri in 
which works of alchemy occur are primarily magic papyri, so 
that alchemy may be said to spring from the brow of magic. 
The same is only somewhat less true of the manuscripts. In 



the earliest one of the eleventh century the alchemy is in the 
company of a treatise on the interpretation of dreams, a 
sphere of divination of life or death, and magic alphabets. 
The treatises of alchemy themselves are equally impregnated 
with magic detail. Cleopatra's art of making gold employs 
concentric circles, a serpent, an eight-rayed star, and other 
magic figures. Physica et mystica, ascribed to Democritus, 
after a purely technical fragment on purple dye, invokes his 
master Ostanes from Hades, and then plunges into alchem- 
ical recipes. There are also frequent bits of astrology and 
suggestions of Gnostic influence. Often the encircling ser- 
pent Ouroboros, who bites or swallows his tail, is referred 
to.^ Sometimes the alchemist puts a little gold into his mix- 
ture to act as a sort of nest tgg, or mother of gold, and en- 
courage the remaining substance to become gold too.^ Or 
we read in a work ascribed to Ostanes of "a divine water" 
which "revives the dead and kills the living, enlightens ob- 
scurity and obscures what is clear, calms the sea and 
quenches fire. A few drops of it give lead the appearance 
of gold with the aid of God, the invisible and all-power- 
ful. . . ."3 

These early alchemists are also greatly given to mystery Mystery 
and allegory. "Touch not the philosopher's stone with your ^{j^ 
hands," warns Mary the Jewess, "you are not of our race, 
you are not of the race of Abraham." ^ In a tract concern- 
ing the serpent Ouroboros we read, "A serpent is stretched 
out guarding the temple. Let his conqueror begin by sac- 
rifice, then skin him, and after having removed his flesh 
to the very bones, make a stepping-stone of it to enter the 
temple. Mount upon it and you will find the object sought. 
For the priest, at first a man of copper, has changed his 
color and nature and become a man of silver; a few days 
later, if you wish, you will find him changed into a man of 
gold." ^ Or in the preparation of the aforesaid divine 

'Berthelot (1885), p. 59. * Berthelot (1885), p. 56. 

* Ibid., p. 53. » Berthelot ( 1888) , III, 23. 

•Berthelot (1888), III, 2SI. 



in al- 
chemy : 
relation to 
and philos- 

water Ostanes tells us to take the eggs of the serpent of oak 
who dwells in the month of August in the mountains of 
Olympus, Libya, and the Taurus.^ Synesius tells that 
Democritus was initiated in Egypt at the temple of Memphis 
by Ostanes, and Zosimus cites the instruction of Ostanes, 
"Go towards the stream of the Nile ; you'll find there a stone ; 
cut it in two, put in your hand, and take out its heart, for 
its soul is in its heart." ^ Zosimus himself often resorts to 
symbolic jargon to obscure his meaning, as in the descrip- 
tion of the vision of a priest who was torn to pieces and who 
mutilated himself.^ He, too, personifies the metals and 
talks of a man of gold, a tin man, and so on.* A brief 
example of his style will have to suffice, as these allegories 
of the alchemists are insufferably tedious reading. "Finally 
I had the longing to mount the seven steps and see the seven 
chastisements, and one day, as it chanced, I hit upon the 
path up. After several attempts I traversed the path, but 
on my return I lost my way and, profoundly discouraged, 
seeing no way out, I fell asleep. In my dream I saw a lit- 
tle man, a barber, clothed in purple robe and royal raiment, 
standing outside the place of punishment, and he said to 
me. . . ." ^ When Zosimus was not dreaming dreams and 
seeing visions, he was usually citing ancient authorities. 

At the same time even these early alchemists cannot be 
denied a certain scientific character, or at least a connection 
with natural science. Behind alchemy existed a constant 
experimental progress. "Alchemy," said Berthelot, "rested 
upon a certain mass of practical facts that were known in 
antiquity and that had to do with the preparation of metals, 
their alloys, and that of artificial precious stones; it had there 
an experimental side which did not cease to progress during 
the entire medieval period until positive modern chemistry 
emerged from it." ^ The various treatises of the Greek al- 
chemists describe apparatus and experiments which are real 
'Berthelot (1888), III, 251. *Ibid., p. 60. 

'Berthelot (1885), p. 164. HI^'Is^''"' ^'^^' "' "^"^' 

'Ibid., pp. 179-80. 'Berthelot (1885), pp. 21 1-2. 


but with which they associated resuhs which were impos- 
sible and visionary. Their theories of matter seem indebted 
to the earher Greek philosophers, while in the description 
of nature Berthelot noted a "direct and intimate" relation 
between them and the works of Dioscorides, Vitruvius, and 

* Berthelot (1889), p. vi. 

Plutarch's essays 

Themes of ensuing chapters — Life of Plutarch — Superstition in Plu- 
tarch's Lives — His Morals or Essays — Question of their authenticity — 
Magic in Plutarch — Essay on Superstition — Plutarch hospitable toward 
some superstitions — The oracles of Delphi and of Trophonius — Divina- 
tion justified — Demons as mediators between gods and men — Demons 
in the moon : migration of the soul — Demons mortal : some evil — Men 
and demons — Relation of Plutarch's to other conceptions of demons — 
The astrologer Tarrutius — De fato — Other bits of astrology — Cosmic 
mysticism — Number mysticism — Occult virtues in nature — Asbestos — 
On Rivers and Mountains — Magic herbs — Stones found in plants and 
fish — Virtues of other stones — Fascination — Animal sagacity and reme- 
dies — Theories and queries about nature — The Antipodes. 


Themes of HAVING noted the presence of magic in works so espe- 
cially devoted to natural science as those of Pliny, Galen, 
and Ptolemy, we have now to illustrate the prominence both 
of natural science and of magic in the life and thought of 
the Roman Empire by a consideration of some writers of a 
more miscellaneous character, who should reflect for us 
something of the interests of the average cultured reader of 
that time. Of this type are Plutarch, Apuleius and Philos- 
tratus, whom we shall consider in the coming chapters in 
the order named, which also roughly corresponds to their 
chronological sequence. 

Plutarch flourished during the reigns of Trajan and 
Hadrian at the turn of the first and second centuries, but 
The Letter on the Education of a Prince to Trajan ^ 
probably is not by him, and the legend that Hadrian was his 
pupil is a medieval invention. He was born in Boeotia about 
46-48 A. D. and was educated in rhetoric and philosophy, 
science and mathematics, at Athens, where he was a student 

^ De institutione principis epistola ad Traianum, a treatise extant 
only in Latin form. 

Life of 


when Nero visited Greece in 66 A. D. He also made 
several visits to Rome and resided there for some time. He 
held various public positions in the province of Achaea and 
in his small native tov^n of Chaeronea, and had official con- 
nections with the Delphic oracle and amphictyony. Artemi- 
dorus in the Oneirocriticon states that Plutarch's death was 
foreshadowed in a dream. ^ 

With Plutarch's celebrated Lives of Illustrious Men, as Super- 
with narrative histories in general, we shall not be much piutarch's 
concerned, although they of course abound in omens and L.^'^es. 
portents, in bits of pseudo-science which details in his nar- 
rative bring to the mind of the biographer, and in cases of 
divination and magic. Thus theories are advanced to ex- 
plain why birds dropped dead from mid-air at the shout set 
up by the Greeks at the Isthmian games when Flamininus 
proclaimed their freedom. Or we are told how Sulla re- 
ceived from the Chaldeans predictions of his future great- 
ness, how in the dedication to his Memoirs he admonished 
Lucullus to trust in dreams, and how Lucullus's mind was 
deranged by a love philter administered by his freedman in 
the hope of increasing his master's affection towards him.^ 
Such allusions and incidents abound also of course in Dio 
Cassius, Tacitus, and other Roman historians. 

But we shall be concerned rather with Plutarch's other His 
writings, which are usually grouped together under the title Essays. ^^ 
of Morals, or, more appropriately, Miscellanies and Es- 
says. Not only is there great variety in their titles, but in 
any given essay the attention is usually not strictly held to 
one theme or problem but the discussion diverges to other 
points. Some are by their very titles and form rambling 
dialogues, symposiacs, and table-talk, where the conversation 
lightly flits from one topic to other entirely different ones, 
never dwelling for long upon any one point and never re- 

^ IV, 72. On the biography and ode," pp. 367fF. 

bibUography of Plutarch consult ' See also the essay, "Whether 

Christ, Gesch. d. Griechischen an old man should engage in poli- 

Litteratur, 5th ed., Munich, 1913, tics," cap. 16. 
II, 2, "Die nachklassische Peri- 




of their 

Magic in 

turning to its starting-point. This dinner-table and drink- 
ing-bout type of cultured and semi-learned discourse has 
other extant ancient examples such as the Attic Nights of 
Aulus Gellius and the Deipnosophists of Athenaeus, but 
Plutarch will have to serve as our main illustration of it. 
His Essays reflect in motley guise and disordered array the 
fruits of extensive reading and a retentive memory in ancient 
philosophy, science, history, and literature. 

The authenticity of some of the essays attributed to him 
has been questioned, and very likely with propriety, but for 
our purpose it is not important that they should all be by 
the same author so long as they represent approximately the 
same period and type of literature. The spurious treatise, 
De placitis philosophorimi, we have already considered in 
the chapter on Galen, to whom it has also been ascribed. The 
essay On Rivers and Mountains we shall treat by itself in 
the present chapter. The De fato has also been called spuri- 
ous.^ Superstitious content is not a sufficient reason for 
denying that a treatise is by Plutarch,^ since he is super- 
stitious in writings of undoubted genuineness and since we 
have found the leading scientists of the time unable to ex- 
clude superstition from their works entirely. Moreover, 
many of the essays are in the form of conversations ex- 
pressing the divergent views of different speakers, and it is 
not always possible to tell which shade of opinion Plutarch 
himself favors. Suffice it that the views expressed are those 
of men of education. 

Plutarch does not specifically discuss magic under that 
name at any length in any of his essays, but does treat of 

* See R. Schmertosch, in PhiloL- 
Hist. Beitr. z. Ehren Wachsmuths, 
1897, pp. 28ff. 

' Language and literary form are 
surer guides and have been ap- 
plied by B. Weissenberger, Die 
Sprache Plutarchs von Ch'dronea 
und die pseudoplutarchischen 
Schriften, II Progr. Straubing, 
1896, pp. I5ff. In 1876 W. W. 
Goodwin, editing a revised edition 

of the seventeenth century English 
translation of the Morals, de- 
clared that no critical translation 
was possible until a thorough re- 
vision of the text had been under- 
taken with the help of the best 
MSS. Since then an edition of 
the text by G. N. Bernadakes, 
1888-1896, has appeared, but it has 
not escaped criticism. 


such subjects as superstition in general, dreams, oracles, 
demons, number, fate, the craftiness of animals, and other 
"natural questions." Certain vulgar forms of magic, at 
least, were regarded by him with disapproval or incredul- 
ity.^ He rejects as a fiction the statement that the women 
of Thessaly can draw down the moon by their spells, but 
thinks that the notion perhaps originated in the fact or story 
that Aglaonice, daughter of Hegetor, was so skilful in as- 
trology or astronomy as to be able to foresee the occurrence 
of lunar eclipses, and that she deluded the people into believ- 
ing that at such times she brought down the moon from 
heaven by charms and enchantments.- Thus we have one 
more instance of the union of magic and science, this time 
of pseudo-magic with real science as at other times of magic 
with pseudo-science. 

The essay entitled vrepl btiaibaniovlas deals with super- Essay on 
stition in the usual Greek sense of dread or excessive g^^^^jj. 
fear of demons and gods. We are accustomed to think of 
Hellenic paganism as a cheerful faith, full of naturalism, in 
which the gods were humanized and made familiar. Plu- 
tarch apparently regards normal religion as of this sort, and 
attacks the superstitious dread of the supernatural. He con- 
tends that such fear is worse, if anything, than atheism, for 
it makes men more unhappy and is an equal offense against 
the divinity, since it is at least as bad to believe ill of the 
gods as not to believe in them at all. Nothing indeed encour- 
ages the growth of atheism so much as the absurd practices 
and beliefs of such superstitious persons, "their words and 

* The English translation of Plu- skill and impose upon him with 

tarch's Morals "by several hands," subtle questions." But the cor- 

first published in 1684- 1694, sixth responding clause in the Greek 

edition corrected and revised by text is merely ol nh> cos aoinarov bta- 

W. W. Goodwin, 5 vols., 1870- irtipav \ayL0a.vovTt%, and there seems 

1878, IV, 10, renders a passage in to be no reason for taking the 

the seventh chapter of De defectU' word "sophist" in any other than 

oraculorunt, in which complaint its usual meaning. The passage 

is made of the "base and villain- therefore cannot be interpreted as 

ous questions" which are now put an attack upon even vulgar astrol- 

to the oracle of Apollo, as fol- ogers. 

lows : "some coming to him as a ' De defectu oraculorunt, 13. 
mere paltry astrologer to try his 


motions, their sorceries and magics, their runnings to and 
fro and beatings of drums, their impure rites and their 
purifications, their filthiness and chastity-, their barbarian 
and illegal chastisements and abuse." ^ Plutarch seems to 
be in part animated by the common prejudice against all 
other religions than cHie's own. and speaks twice with dis- 
taste of Jewish Sabbaths. He also, however, as the passage 
just quoted shows, is opposed to the more extreme and de- 
basing forms of magic, and declares that the superstitious 
man becomes a mere peg or post upon which all the old- 
wives hang any amulets and ligatures upon which they may 
chance.- He further condemns such historic instances of 
superstition as Xicias's suspension of military operations 
during a lunar eclipse on the Sicilian expedition.^ There was 
nothing terrible, says Plutarch, with his usual felicity of an- 
tithesis, in the periodic reoirrence of the earth's shadow 
upon the moon; but it was a terrible calamitv* that the 
shadow of superstition should thus darken the mind of a 
general at the very moment when a great crisis required the 
fullest use of his reason. 
-:"tarch In the essay upon the demon of Socrates one of the 

^;l"^"'*^ speakers, attacking faith in dreams and apparitions, com- 
mends Socrates as one who did not reject the worship of 
the gods but who did purify philosophy, which he had re- 
ceived from P}-thagoras and Empedocles full of phantasms 
and myths and the dread of demons, and reeling like a Bac- 
chanal, and reduced it to facts and reason and truth.* An- 
other of the company, however, objects that the demon of 
Socrates outdid the divination of P\thagoras.^ These con- 
flicting opinions may be applied in some measiu-e to Plutarch 
himself. His censtu"e of dread of demons and excessive 
superstition is not to be taken as a sign of scepticism on 
his part in oracles, dreams, or the demons themselves. To 
these matters we next tturu 

'Cap. 12. *Cap. 9. 

•Cap. 7. 

• Cap. a * Cap. 10. 




Plutarch's faith and interest in oracles in general and The 

, . . , , oracles of 

in the Delphian oracle ot Apollo in particular are attested Delphi and 

by three of his essays, the De defectu oraculorum, De Py- '^X^^^ 
thme oracuUs and De Ei apud Delphos. At the same time 
these essays attest the decline of the oracles from their earlier 
popularity" and greatness. The oracular cave of Trophonius, 
of which we shall hear again in the Life of Apollonius of 
Tyana, also comes into Plutarch's works, and the prophetic 
and apocal}'ptic vision is described of a youth who spent two 
nights and a day there in an endeavor to learn the nature 
of the demon of Socrates.^ 

Plutarch further had faith in divination in general, Divination 
whether by dreams, sneezes or other omens: but he attempted 
to give a dignified philosophical and theological explana- 
tion of it. Few men receive direct divine revelation, in his 
opinion, but to many signs are given on which divination 
may be based.- He held that the human soul had a natural 
faculty of di%-ination which might be exercised at favorable 
times and when the bodily state was not unfavorable.^ A 
speaker in one of his dialogues justifies divination even from 
sneezes and like trivial occurrences upon the ground that as 
the faint beat of the pulse has meaning for the ph}*sician and 
a small cloud in the sk}- is for a skilful pilot a sign of im- 
pending storm, so the least thing may be a clue to the truly- 
prophetic soul.^ The extent of Plutarch's faith in dreams 
may be inferred from his discussion of the problem. Why 
are dreams in autumn the least reliable ? ^ First there is 
Aristotle's suggestion that eating autumn fruit so disturbs 
the digestion that the soul is left little opportunity to ex- 
ercise its prophetic faculty- undistracted. If we accept the 
doctrine of Democritus that dreams are caused by images 
from other bodies and even minds or souls, which enter the 
body of the sleeper through the open pores and affect the 
mind, revealing to it the present passions and future de- 

^ De genio Socratis, 21-22. * De genio Socratis, 12, 

'Ibid.. 24. 

* De dcfcctu orjcuhrum, 40. * Sympos. \TII. 10. 



Demons as 
gods and 

Demons in 
the moon : 
of the soul. 

signs of others, — if we accept this theory, it may be that 
the falling leaves in autumn disturb the air and ruffle these 
extremely thin and film-like emanations. A third explana- 
tion offered is that in the declining months of the year all 
our faculties, including that of natural divination, are in a 
state of decline. In the case of oracles like that at Delphi it 
is suggested that the Pythia's natural faculty of divination 
is stimulated by "the prophetical exhalations from the earth" 
which induce a bodily state favorable to divination.^ The 
god or demon, however, is the underlying and directing 
cause of the oracle.- 

To the demons and their relations to the gods and to 
men we therefore next come. Plutarch's view is that they 
are essential mediators between the gods and men. Just as 
one who should remove the air from between the earth and 
moon would destroy the continuity of the universe, so those 
who deny that there is a race of demons break ofif all inter- 
course between gods and men.^ On the other hand, the 
theory of demons solves many doubts and difficulties.-'* 
When and where this doctrine originated is uncertain, 
whether among the magi about Zoroaster, or in Thrace with 
Orpheus, or in Egypt or Phrygia. Plutarch likens the gods 
to an equilateral, the demons to an isosceles, and human be- 
ings to a scalene triangle; and again compares the gods to 
sun and stars, the demons to the moon, and men to comets 
and meteors.^ In the youth's vision in the cave of Tro- 
phonius the moon appeared to belong to earthly demons, 
while those stars which have a regular motion were the 
demons of sages, and the wandering and falling stars the 
demons of men who have yielded to irrational passions.® 

These suggestions that the moon and the air between 
earth and moon are the abode of the demons and this remi- 
niscence of the Platonic doctrine of the soul and its migra- 
tions receive further confirmation in a discussion whether 

^ De defectu oraculorum, 44. 
^bid., 48. 
Ubid., 13. 

*Ibid., ID. 
^bid., 13. 
*£?<? genio Socratis, 22. 


the moon is inhabited in the essay, On the Face in the Moon. 
A story is there told ^ of a man who visited islands five 
days' sail west of Britain, where Saturn is imprisoned and 
where there are demons serving him. This man who ac- 
quired great skill in astrology during his stay there stated 
upon his return to Europe that every soul after leaving the 
human body wanders for a time between earth and moon, 
but finally reaches the latter planet, where the Elysian fields 
are located, and there becomes a demon. ^ The demons do 
not always remain in the moon, however, but may come to 
earth to care for oracles or be imprisoned in a human body 
again for some crime.^ The man who repeats the stranger's 
story leaves it to his hearers, however, to believe it or not. 
But the struggle upward of human souls to the estate of 
demons is again described in the essay on the demon of Soc- 
rates,^ where it is explained that those souls which have suc- 
ceeded in freeing themselves from all union with the flesh 
become guardian demons and help those of their fellows 
whom they can reach, just as men on shore wade out as far 
as they can into the waves to rescue those sea-tossed, ship- 
v/recked mariners who have succeeded in struggling almost 
to land. The soul is plunged into the body, the uncorrupted 
mind or demon remains without.^ 

The demons differ from the gods in that they are mortal, Demons 

though much longer-lived than men. Hesiod said that crows ^°^^^^ '■ ., 

some evil. 

live nine times as long as men, stags four times as long as 
crows, ravens three times as long as stags, a phoenix nine 
times as long as a raven, and the nymphs ten times as long as 
the phoenix.^ There are storms in the isles off Britain when- 
ever one of the demons residing there dies."^ Some demons 
are good spirits and others are evil ; some are more passive 
and irrational than others ; some delight in gloomy festivals, 
foul words, and even human sacrifice.^ 

^Cap. 26. «Cap. 22. 

Cap. 29. " ]jg defectu oraculorum, 10. 

Cap. 30. ' ii,id., 18. 

Cap. 24. Ubid., 13-14. 



Men and 

Relation of 
to other 
tions of 

Once a year in the neighborhood of the Red Sea a man 
is seen who spends the remainder of his time among 
"nymphs, nomads and demons." ^ At his annual appear- 
ance many princes and great men come to consult him con- 
cerning the future. He also has the gift of tongues to the 
extent of understanding several languages perfectly. His 
speech is like sweetest music, his breath sweet and fragrant, 
his person the most graceful that his interlocutor had ever 
seen. He also was never afflicted with any disease, for once 
a month he ate the bitter fruit of a medicinal herb. As to 
the exact nature of Socrates' demon there is some diversity 
of opinion. One man suggests that it was merely the sneez- 
ing of himself or others, sneezes on the left hand warning 
him to desist from his intended course of action, while a 
sneeze in any other quarter was interpreted by him as a fa- 
vorable sign.^ The weight of opinion, however, inclines to- 
wards the view that his demon did not appear to him as an 
apparition or phantasm, or even communicate with him as an 
audible voice, but by immediate impression upon his mind.^ 

Plutarch's account of demons is the first of a number 
which we shall have occasion to note. As the discussion of 
them by Apuleius in the next chapter and the rather crude 
representation of them given in Philostratus's Life of Apol- 
lonius of Tyana will show, there was as yet among non- 
Christian writers no unanimity of opinion concerning de- 
mons. On the other hand there are several conceptions in 
Plutarch's essays which were to be continued later by Chris- 
tians and Neo-Platonists : namely, the conception of a medi- 
ate class of beings between God and men, the hypothesis of 
a world of spirits in close touch with human life, the associa- 
tion of divination and oracles with demons, and the location 
of spirits in the sphere of the moon or the air between earth 
and moon, — although Plutarch sometimes connected demons 
with the stars above the moon. This occasional association 
of stars with spirits and of sinning souls with falling stars 

^ De defectu oraculorum, 21. ^ Ibid., 20. 

*De genio Socratis, 11. 


bears some resemblance to the depiction of certain stars as 
sinners in the Hebraic Book of Enoch, which was written 
before Plutarch's time and which we shall consider in our 
next book as an influence upon the development of early 
Christian thought. 

As for the stars apart from demons, Plutarch discusses The 
the art of astrology as little as he does "magic" by that name. Tarrutms^. 
Mentions of individuals as skilled in "astrology" may sim- 
ply mean that they were trained astronomers. When a 
veritable astrologer in our sense of the word is mentioned 
in one of Plutarch's Lives,^ he is described as a fJLadrmaTiKos 
— a word often used for a caster of horoscopes and pre- 
dicter of the future. Here, however, it carries no reproach 
of charlatanism, since in the same phrase he is called a 
philosopher. This Tarrutius was a friend of Varro, who 
asked him to work out the horoscope of Romulus backward 
from what was known of the later life and character 
of the founder of Rome. "For it was possible for the 
same science which predicted man's life from the time of 
his birth to infer the time of his birth from the events 
of his life." Tarrutius set to work and from the data at 
his disposal figured out that Romulus was conceived in the 
first year of the second Olympiad, on the twenty-third day 
of the Egyptian month Khoeak at the third hour when there 
was a total eclipse of the sun; and that he was born on 
the twenty-first day of the month Thoth about sunrise. He 
further estimated that Rome was founded by him on the 
ninth day of the month Pharmuthi between the second and 
third hour. For, adds Plutarch, they think that the for- 
tunes of cities are also controlled by the hour of their 
genesis. Plutarch, however, seems to look upon such doc- 
trines as rather strange and fabulous.^ Varro, on the other 
hand, may have regarded it as the most scientific method 
possible of settling disputed questions of historical chro- 

Romulus, cap. 12. Slo. to fivdwdes ti'ox^'fi<^et rovs bTvyx&vov- 

AXXd ravra ixlv ictojs Kal to. roiavra. ras avrol^. 
Tcjj^eftf) Kal irtpiTTU) irpocra^eTai /LxdXXo;' i) 


The A favorable attitude towards astrology is found mainly 

^ ^^^°' in those essays by Plutarch which are suspected of being 
spurious, the De fato and De placitis philosophorum. Of 
the latter we have already treated under Galen. In the 
former fate is described as "the soul of the universe," and 
the three main divisions of the universe, namely, the im- 
movable heaven, the moving spheres and heavenly bodies, 
and the region about the earth, are associated with the 
three Fates, Clotho, Atropos, and Lachesis.^ It is similarly 
stated in the essay on the demon of Socrates ^ that of the 
four principles of all things, life, motion, genesis or genera- 
tion, and corruption, the first two are joined by the One 
indivisibly, the second and third Mind unites through the 
sun; the third and fourth Nature joins through the moon. 
And over each of these three bonds presides one of the three 
Fates, Atropos, Clotho, and Lachesis. In other words, the 
one God or first cause, invisible and unmoved, in whom is 
life, sets in motion the heavenly spheres and bodies, through 
whose instrumentality generation and corruption upon 
earth are produced and regulated, — which is substantially 
the Aristotelian view of the universe. Returning to the 
De fato we may note that it repeats the Stoic theory of 
the magnus anntis when the heavenly bodies resume their 
rounds and all history repeats itself.^ Despite this ap- 
parent admission that human life is subject to the move- 
ments of the stars, the author of the De fato seer^ to think 
that accident, fortune or chance, the contingent, and "what 
is in us" or free-will, can all co-exist with fate, which he 
practically identifies with the motion of the heavenly bodies,* 
Fate is also comprehended by divine Providence but this 
fact does not militate against astrology, since Providence 
itself divides into that of the first God, that of the secondary 
gods or stars "who move through the heavens regulating 
mortal affairs, and that of the demons who act as guardians 

of men.^ 
*Cap. 2. *Caps. 5-8. 

' Cap. 22. 
" Cap. 3. Cap. 9 



One or two bits of astrology may be noted in Plutarch's Other 
other essays. The man who learned "astrology" among astrobgy. 
demons in the isle beyond Britain affirmed that in human 
generation earth supplies the body, the moon furnishes the 
soul, and the sun provides the intellect.^ In the Symposiacs ^ 
the opinion of the mythographers is repeated that mon- 
strous animals were produced during the war with the giants 
because the moon turned from its course then and rose 
in unaccustomed quarters. Plutarch was, by the way, in- 
clined to distinguish the moon from other heavenly bodies 
as passive and imperfect, a sort of celestial earth or terres- 
trial star. Such a separation of the moon from the other 
stars and planets would have, however, no necessary con- 
trariety with astrological theory, which usually ascribed a 
peculiar place to the moon and represented it as the medium 
through which the more distant planets exerted their effects 
upon the earth. 

Sometimes Plutarch's cosmology carries Platonism to Cosmic 
the verge of Gnosticism, a subject of which we shall treat 
in a later chapter. The diviner who had communed with 
demons, nomads, and nymphs in the desert asserted that 
there was not one world, but one hundred and eighty-three 
worlds arranged in the form of a triangle with sixty to each 
side and one at each angle. Within this triangle of worlds 
lay the plain of truth where were the ideas and models of 
all things that had been or were to be, and about these was 
eternity from which time flowed off like a river to the one 
hundred and eighty-three worlds. The vision delectable of 
those ideas is granted to men only once in a myriad of 
years, if they live well, and is the goal toward which all 
philosophy strives. The stranger, we are informed, told 
this tale artlessly, like one in the mysteries, and produced no 
demonstration or proof of what he said. We have already 
heard Plutarch liken gods, demons, and men to different 
kinds of triangles; he also repeats Plato's association of the 

^De facie in orbe lunae, 28. ''VIII, 9. 




virtues in 

five regular solids with the elements, earth, air, fire, water, 
and ether.^ He states that the nature of fire is quite apparent 
in the pyramid from "the slenderness of its decreasing sides 
and the sharpness of its angles," ^ and that fire is engendered 
from air when the octahedron is dissolved into pyramids, and 
air produced from fire when the pyramids are compressed 
into an octahedron.^ 

These geometrical fancies are naturally accompanied by 
considerable number mysticism. In this particular passage 
the merits of the number five are enlarged upon and a long 
list is given of things that are five in number.!"* Five is again 
extolled in the essay on The Ei at Delphi,^ but there one of 
the company remarks with much reason that it is possible 
to praise any number in many ways, but that he prefers to 
five "the sacred seven of Apollo." ® Platonic geometrical 
reveries and Pythagorean number mysticism are indulged 
in even more extensively in the essay On the Procreation 
of the Soul in Timaeus. The number and proportion exist- 
ing in planets, stars and spheres are touched on,'^ and it is 
stated that the divine demiurge produced the marvelous vir- 
tues of drugs and organs by employing harmonies and num- 
bers.^ Thus in the potency of ntmiber and numerical rela- 
tions is suggested a possible explanation of astrology^and 
magic force in nature. 

Plutarch, indeed, shows the same faith in the existence 
of occult virtues in natural objects and in what may be 
called natural magic as most of his contemporaries. At his 
symposium when one man avers that he saw the tiny fish 
echene'is stop the ship upon which he was sailing until the 
look-out man picked it off,^ some laugh at his credulity but 

^ De defectu oraculorum, 31-32. 
The resemblance of the stranger's 
tale to the vision of Er in Plato's 
Republic is also evident. 

^Ibid., 34. 

"Ibid., 37. 

* Ibid., 36; and see 11-12. 

* Caps. 8-16. 
*Cap. 17. 
'Cap. 31. 

•Cap. 33. 

' Symposiacs, II, 7. D'Arcy W. 
Thompson in his translation of 
Aristotle's History of Animals 
comments on II, 14, "The myth of 
the 'ship-holder' has been ele- 
gantly explained by V. W. Elk- 
man, 'On Dead Water,' in the Re- 
ports of Nansen's North Polar 
Expedition, Christiania, 1904." 


others narrate other cases of strange antipathies in nature. 
Mad elephants are quieted by the sight of a ram; vipers will 
not move if touched with a leaf from a beech tree; wild bulls 
become tame when tied to a fig tree;^ if light objects are 
oiled, amber fails to attract them as usual; and iron rubbed 
with garlic does not respond to the magnet, "These things 
are proved by experience but it is difficult if not quite impos- 
sible to learn their cause." At the Symposium ^ the ques- 
tion also is raised why salt is called divine, and it is sug- 
gested that it may be because it preserves bodies from decay 
after the soul has left them, or because mice conceive with- 
out sexual intercourse by merely licking salt. In The Delay 
of the Deity Plutarch again treats of occult virtues.^ They 
pass from body to body with incredible swiftness or to an 
incredible distance. He wonders why it is that if a goat 
takes a piece of sea-holly in her mouth, the entire herd will 
stand still until the goatherd removes it. We see once more 
how closely such notions are associated with magical prac- 
tices, when in the same paragraph he mentions the custom 
of making the children of those who have died of con- 
sumption or dropsy sit soaking their feet in water until the 
corpse has been buried so that they may not catch their 
parent's disease. 

On the other hand, how difficult it must have been with Asbestos. 
the limited scientific knowledge of that time to distinguish 
true from false marvelous properties may be inferred from 
Plutarch's description ^ of a certain soft and pliable stone 
that used to be produced at Carystus and from which hand- 
kerchiefs and hair-nets were made which could not be burnt 
and were cleaned by exposure to fire, — a description, it would 
seem, of our asbestos, although Plutarch does not give the 
stone any name. Strabo also ascribes similar properties to 
a stone from Carystus without naming it.^ Dioscorides and 

^ See above p. 77 for the some- *X, i (Casaub., 446) ; for this 

what diflferent statement of Pliny and some other source citations 

(NH, XXIII, 64). and a brief bibliography of mod- 

' Symposiacs, V, 10. ern discussions on the subject see 

^De sera numinis vindicta, 14. the article, "Amiantus" (3) in 

* De defectu oraculorum, 43. Pauly-Wissowa. 


other Greek authors, we are told/ apply the word "asbestos" 
to quick-lime, but Pliny in the Natural History ^ describes 
what he says the Greeks call aa^eaTLvou much as Plutarch 
does. He adds that it is employed in making shrouds for 
royal funerals to separate the ashes of the corpse from those 
of the pyre.^ But he seems to regard it as a plant, not a 
stone, listing it as a variety of linen in one of his books on 
vegetation. He also states incorrectly that it is found but 
rarely and in desert and arid regions of India where there 
is no rain and a hot sun and amid terrible serpents.* Prob- 
ably Pliny or his source argued that anything which resisted 
the action of fire must have been inured by growth under 
fiery suns and among serpents. Furthermore it obviously 
should possess other marvelous properties, so we are not 
surprised to find Anaxilaus cited to the effect that if this 
"linen" is tied around a tree trunk, the blows with which 
the tree is felled cannot be heard. It was thus that imagina- 
tions inured to magic enlarged upon unusual natural prop- 

* Article on "Asbestos" in the length. It is still preserved in the 

Encyclopedia Britannica, nth edi- Vatican," (Bostock and Riley, 

tion, which further states that note 45). 

Charlemagne was said to own a * "On the contrary, it is found in 

tablecloth which was cleaned by the Higher Alps in the vicinity of 

throwing it into the fire, and that glaciers, in Scotland, and in 

in 1676 a merchant from China Siberia even" (Bostock and Riley, 

exhibited to the Royal Society a note 46). The article on "Amian- 

handkerchief of "salamander's tus (3)" in Pauly-Wissowa incor- 

wool" or linum asbesti (asbestos rectly assumes that in XIX, 4, 

linen). See also Marco Polo, I, Pliny has it in mind. In XXXVI, 

42, and Cordier's note in Yule 31, however, Pliny briefly de- 

(1903), I, 216. scribes the stone amianthus, which 

^XIX, 4. In Bostock and Riley's Bostock and Riley (note 52) call 

English translation, note 44 states "the most delicate variety of 

that "the wicks of the inextin- asbestus," as "losing nothing in 

guishable lamps of the middle fire" and "resisting all potions (or, 

ages, the existence of which was spells) even of the magi," — "Ami- 

an article of general belief, were antus alumini similis nihil igni 

said to be made of asbestus." On deperdit. Hie veneficis resistit 

its use in lamp-wicks see also omnibus privatim magorum." In 

Pausanias, I, 26, 7. XXXVII, 54, in an alphabetical 

' "In the year 1702 there was list of stones, he briefly states that 

found near the Naevian Gate at asbestos is iron-colored and found 

Rome a funeral urn, in which in the mountains of Arcadia, — 

there was a skull, calcined bones, "Asbestos in Arcadiae montibus 

and other ashes, enclosed in a nascitur coloris ferrei." 
cloth of asbestus of a marvelous 



A treatise upon rivers and mountains in which the mar- On rivers 
velous virtues of herbs and stones figure very prominently °^i„J"^""" 
has sometimes been included among the works of Plutarch, 
but also has been omitted entirely from some editions.^ 
Some have ascribed it to Parthenius of the time of Nero. 
It is made up of some thirty-five chapters in each of which 
a river and a mountain are mentioned. Usually some myth 
or tragic history is recounted, from which the river took its 
name or with which it was otherwise intimately connected. 
A similar procedure is followed in the case of the mountain. 
The writer, whoever he may be, makes a show of extensive 
reading, citing over forty authorities, most of whom are 
Greek and not mentioned in the full bibliographies of 
Pliny's Natural History. The titles cited have to do largely 
with stones, rivers, and different countries. It has been 
questioned, however, whether these citations are not bogus. ^ 

The properties attributed to herbs and stones in this Magic 
treatise are to a large extent magical. A white reed found ^^ ^' 
in the river Phasis while one is sacrificing at dawn to Hecate, 
if strewn in a wife's bedroom, drives mad any adulterer who 
enters and makes him confess his sin.^ Another herb men- 
tioned in the same chapter was used by Medea to protect 
Jason from her father. In a later chapter * we are told how 
Hera called upon Selene to aid her in securing her revenge 
upon Heracles, and how the moon goddess filled a large 
chest with froth and foam by her magic spells until presently 
a huge lion leaped out of the chest. Returning from such 
sorceresses as Hecate, Medea, and Selene to herbs alone, in 
other rivers are plants which test the purity of gold, aid 
dim sight or blind one, wither at the mention of the word 
"step-mother" or burst into flames whenever a step-mother 
has evil designs against her step-son, free their bearers from 
fear of apparitions, operate as charms in love-making and 

* Ed. by R. Hercher, Lipsiae, and Mountains itself called a 

185 1 ; and by C. Miiller in "Schwindelbuch," but these cita- 

Geograph. Graeci Minorcs, II, tions are rejected as fraudulent. 

637flf. 'Cap. 5. 

' In Christ's Gesch. d. Griech. * Cap. 18. 
Litt., not only is the On Rivers 


childbirth, cure madmen of their frenzy, check quartan 

agues if appHed to the breasts, protect virginity or wither 

at a virgin's touch, turn wine into water except that it retains 

its bouquet, or preserve persons anointed with their juice 

from sickness to their dying day. 

Stones An easy transition from the theme of magic herbs to 

found in .-.,,, . , . , 

plants that oi stones is afforded by a sort of poppy which grows 

and sh. -^^ ^ river of Mysia and bears black, harp-shaped stones which 
the natives gather and scatter over their ploughed fields.^ 
If these stones then lie still where they have fallen, it is 
taken as a sign of a barren year; but if they fly away like 
locusts, this prognosticates a plentiful harvest. Other mar- 
velous stones are found in the head of a fish in the river 
Arar, a tributary of the Rhone. The fish is itself quite 
wonderful since it is white while the moon waxes and 
black when it wanes. ^ Presumably for this reason the stone 
cures quartan agues, if applied to the left side of the body 
while the moon is waning. There is another stone which 
must be sought after under a waxing moon with pipers 
playing continually.^ 
Virtues of Other stones guard treasuries by sounding a trumpet- 
stones, like alarm at the approach of thieves; or change color four 
times a day and are ordinarily visible only to young girls. 
But if a virgin of marriageable age chances to see this stone, 
she is safe from attempts upon her chastity henceforth.* 
Some stones drive men mad and are connected with the 
Mother of the Gods or are found only during the celebration 
of the mysteries.^ Others stop dogs from barking, expel 
demons, grow black in the hands of false witnesses, protect 
from wild beasts, and have varied medicinal powers or other 
effects similar to those already mentioned in the case of 
herbs. ° In a river where the Spartans were defeated is a 
stone which leaps towards the bank, if it hears a trumpet, 

*Cap. 21. *Cap. 7. 

* Cap. 6. ' Caps. 9, 10, 12. 

•Cap. I. 'Caps. 16, 18, 24. 


but sinks at the mention of the Athenians.^ Certainly a mar- 
velous stone, capable of both hearing and motion ! 

Leaving the treatise on rivers and mountains, for the Fascina- 
occult virtue of human beings we may turn to a discus- **°"' 
sion of fascination in the Symposiacs.^ Some of the com- 
pany ridiculed the idea, but their host asserted that a myriad 
of events went to prove it and that if you reject a thing 
simply because you cannot give a reason for it, you "take 
away the marvelous from all things." He pointed out that 
some men hurt little and tender children by looking at them, 
and argued that, as the plumes of other birds are ruined when 
mixed with those of the eagle, so men may injure by their 
touch or mere glance. Plutarch, who was of the company, 
suggested effluvia or emanations from the body as a possible 
explanation, pointing out that love begins with glances, that 
no disease is more contagious than sore eyes, and that gazing 
upon the curlew cures jaundice. The bird appears to attract 
the disease to itself, and averts its head and closes its eyes, 
not, as some think, because it is jealous of the remedy sought 
from it, but because it feels wounded as if from a blow. 
Others of the company contended that the passions and affec- 
tions of the soul may have a powerful effect through the 
eyes and glance upon other persons, and argued that the 
sufferings of the soul strengthen the powers of the body, and 
that the same counter-charms are efficacious against envy as 
against fascination. The emanations which Democritus be- 
lieved that envious and malicious persons sent forth are also 
mentioned ; fathers have fascinated their own children, and 
it is even possible that one might injure oneself by reflection 
of one's gaze. It is suggested that young children may some- 
times be fascinated in this manner rather than by the glance 
of others. 

Plutarch devotes two essays to the familiar theme of the Animal 
craftiness and sagacity of animals and the remedies used by ^n?*^^*^ 
them. In one essay ^ a companion of Odysseus refuses to remedies. 
* Cap. 17. 9 ; also Quaest. Nat., cap. 26, "Why 

V, 7. certain brutes seek certain rem- 

Bruta animalia rattone uti, cap. edies." 








allow Circe to turn him back from a pig to human form. 
He boasts among other things that beasts know how to cure 
themselves. Without ever having been taught swine when 
sick run to rivers to search for craw-fish; tortoises physic 
themselves with origanum after eating vipers; and Cretan 
goats devour dittany to extract arrows and darts which have 
been shot into their bodies. In the other essay ^ on the 
cleverness of animals we find many familiar stories repeated, 
including some of the inevitable excerpts from Juba on ele- 
phants. We meet again the dolphins with their love for 
mankind,- the bird who picks the crocodile's teeth and warns 
him of the ichneumon,^ the fish who rescue one another by 
biting the line or dragging one another by the tail out of 
nets,^ the trained elephant who was slow to learn and was 
beaten for it and was afterwards seen practicing his exer- 
cises by himself in the moonlight,^ the sentinel cranes who 
stand on one foot and hold a stone in the other to awaken 
them if they let it drop.® More novel perhaps is the story 
how herons open oysters by first swallowing them, shells 
and all, until they are relaxed by the internal heat of the bird, 
which then vomits them up and eats them out of the shells. 
Or the account of the tunny fish who needs no astrological 
canons and is familiar with arithmetic, "Yes, by Zeus, and 
with optics, too." '^ 

Plutarch's essays bring out yet other interests and de- 
fects of the science of the time. One on The Principle of 
Cold is a good illustration of the failings of the ancient 
hypothesis of four elements and four qualities and of the 
silly, limited arguing which usually and almost of necessity 
accompanied it. He denies that cold is mere privation of 
heat, since it seems to act positively upon fluids and solids 
and exists in different degrees. After considering various 
assertions such as that air becomes cold when it becomes 

* De solertia animaliunt. "* Cap. 25. 

'Ibid., 36-37; also the closing ^ Cap. 12. 

chapters of The Banquet of the * Cap. 10. 

Seven Sages. ' Cap. 29. 

•Cap. 31. 


dark; that air whitens things and water blackens them; 
that cold objects are always heavy; he finally associates the 
element earth especially with the quality cold. In another 
essay ^ he states that there are no females of a certain type 
of beetle which was engraved as a charm upon the rings 
warriors wore to battle, but that the males begat offspring 
by rolling up balls of earth. He declares that "diseases do 
not have distinct germs" in a discussion in the Symposiacs 
whether there can be new diseases.^ Other natural ques- 
tions discussed in the treatise of that name and the Symposi- 
acs are : Why a man who often passes near dewy trees con- 
tracts leprosy in those limbs which touch the wood? Why 
the Dorians pray for bad hay-making? Why bears' paws 
are the sweetest and most palatable food? Why the tracks 
of wild beasts smell worse at the full of the moon? Why 
bees are more apt to sting fornicators than other persons ? ^ 
Why the flesh of sheep bitten by wolves is sweeter than that 
of other sheep? Why mushrooms are thought to be pro- 
duced by thunder? Why flesh decays sooner in moonlight 
than sunlight? Whether Jews abstain from pork because 
they worship the pig or because they have an antipathy 
towards it ? ^ 

Plutarch sometimes shows evidence of considerable The 
astronomical knowledge. For instance, he knows that the ^"^'Po^es. 
mathematicians figure that the distance from sun to earth is 
immense, and that Aristarchus demonstrated the sun to be 
eighteen or twenty times as far off as the moon, which is 
distant fifty-six times the earth's radius at the lowest esti- 
mate.*^ Yet in the same essay ® Plutarch has scoffed at the 
idea of a spherical earth and of antipodes, and at the asser- 
tion that bars weighing a thousand talents would stop falling 
at the earth's center, if a hole were opened up through the 
earth, or that two men with their feet in opposite directions 

^ Isis and Osiris, 10. 10; IV, 5. 

VIII, 9, l.bia.bkcrirkpu.aTa v6<T(jivo\JK s r-i j- • • 7 » 

«^^^^ De facte in orbe lunae, 9-10; 

'Nat. Quaest., caps. 6, 14, 22, ""}'? 5^^ °P^"/"& chapters of De 
2A ■xd > i- > ~t, , dejectu oraculorum. 

* Symposiacs, II, 9 ; IV, 2 ; III, * Cap. 7. 


at the center of the earth might nevertheless both be right 
side up, or that one man whose middle was at the center 
might be half right side up and half upside down. He 
admits, however, that the philosophers think so. Thus we 
see that Christian fathers like Lactantius were not the first 
to ridicule the notion of the Antipodes; apparently as well 
educated and omnivorous a pagan reader as Plutarch could 
do the same. 



I. Life and Works 

Magic and the man — Stylistic reasons for regarding the Metamor- 
phoses as his first work — Biographical reasons — No mention of the 
Metamorphoses in the Apology. 

II. Magic in the Metamorphoses 

Powers claimed for magic — Its actual performances — Its limitations 
— The crimes of witches — Male magicians — Magic as an art and dis- 
cipline — Materials employed — Incantations and rites — Quacks and 
charlatans — Various superstitions — Bits of science and religion — Magic 
in other Greek romances. 

III. Magic in the Apology 

Form of the Apologia — Philosophy and magic — Magic defined — 
Good and bad magic — Magic and religion — Magic and science — Medical 
and scientific knowledge of Apuleius — He repeats familiar errors — 
Apparent ignorance of magic and occult virtue — Despite an assumption 
of knowledge — Attitude toward astronomy — His theory of demons — 
Apuleius in the middle ages. 

I. His Life and Works 

One of the fullest and most vivid pictures of magic in the Magic and 
ancient Mediterranean world which has reached us is pro- ^^ "l^^ ^^ 
vided by the writings of Apuleius. He lived in the second in his 
century of our era and was not merely a rhetorician of great 
note in his day and the writer of a romance which has ever 
since fascinated men, but also a Platonic philosopher, an 
initiate into many religious cults and mysteries, and a stu- 
dent of natural science and medicine. To him has been 
ascribed the Latin version of Asclepius, a supposititious 
dialogue of Hermes Trismegistus. No author perhaps ever 
more readily and complacently talked of himself than 




for re- 
the Meta- 
as his 
first work. 

Apuleius, yet it is no easy task to make out the precise facts 
of his life, partly because in his romance, The Metamor- 
phoses, or The Golden Ass, he has hopelessly confused 
himself with the hero Lucius and introduced an autobio- 
graphical element of uncertain extent into what is in the 
main a work of fiction; partly because his Apology, or 
defense when tried on the charge of magic at Oea in Africa, 
is more in the nature of special pleading intended to refute 
and confound his accusers than of a frank confession or 
accurate history of his career. However, he appears to have 
been born at Madaura in North Africa, to have studied first 
at Carthage and then at Athens, to have visited Rome and 
wandered rather widely about the Mediterranean world, but 
to have spent more time altogether at Carthage than at any 
other one place. 

Besides the Metamorphoses and Apologia, with which 
we shall be chiefly concerned, four other works are extant 
which are regarded as genuine, The God of Socrates, The 
Dogma of Plato, Florida, and On the Universe. The 
order in which these works were written is uncertain, but it 
seems almost sure that the Metamorphoses was the first. In 
it Apuleius not only more or less identifies himself with the 
hero Lucius, who is represented as quite a young man, he 
also apologizes for his Latin and speaks of the difficulty with 
which he had acquired that language at Rome. But in the 
Florida'^ we find him repeating a hymn and a dialogue in 
both Latin and Greek, or, after delivering half an address 
in Greek, finishing it in Latin, or boasting that he writes 
poems, satires, riddles, histories, scientific treatises, orations, 
and philosophical dialogues with equal facility in either lan- 
guage.^ Instead now of craving pardon if he offends by 
his rude, exotic, and forensic speech, he feels that his repu- 
tation for literary refinement and elegance has become such 
that his audience will not pardon him a solitary solecism or 
a single syllable pronounced with a barbarous accent.^ It 

Xap. i8 

* "Tarn graece quam latine, gemi- 

no veto, pari studio, simili studio." 
'^Florida, cap. 9. 

cal rea- 


therefore looks as if the Metamorphoses was his first pub- 
Hshed effort in Latin and as if his pecuHar style had proved 
so popular that he did not find it necessary to apologize for 
it again. In the Apology he seems supremely confident of 
his rhetorical powers in the Latin language, and even the 
accusers describe him as a philosopher of great eloquence 
both in Greek and Latin.^ Three years before in the same 
town his first public discourse had been greeted with shouts 
of "Insigniter," and many in the audience at the time of his 
trial can still repeat a passage from it on the greatness of 
Aesculapius.^ In the Apology, too, he displays a more 
extensive learning than in the Metamorphoses and has writ- 
ten already poems and scientific treatises as well as orations. 
Indeed, practically all the doctrines set forth in his other 
philosophical works may be found in brief in the Apology. 

Moreover, while in the Metamorphoses Apuleius ends Biographi- 
the narrative with what seems to be his own comparatively 
recent initiation into the mysteries of Isis in Greece and 
of Osiris at Rome, in the Apology ^ he speaks of having" 
been initiated in the past into all sorts of sacred rites, 
although he does not mention Rome or Isis and Osiris specifi- 
cally. It is implied, however, that he has been at Rome in 
more than one passage of the Apology. Pontianus, his 
future step-son, with whom Apuleius had become acquainted 
at Athens "not so many years ago," was "an adult at Rome" 
before Apuleius came to Oea. After they had met again at 
Oea and had both married there, Apuleius gave Pontianus 
a letter of introduction to the proconsul Lollianus Avitus at 
Carthage, of whom he says, "I have known intimately many 
cultured men of Roman name in the course of my life, but 
have never admired anyone as much as him." Perhaps 
Apuleius may have met Lollianus at Carthage, but in the 
Florida,'^ in a panegyric on Scipio Orfitus, proconsul of 
Africa in 163-164 A. D., he alludes to the time "when I 
moved among your friends in Rome." All this fits in nicely 

^Apologia, cap. 4. °Caps. 55-56. 

'Caps. 73 and SS- * Cap. 17. 


with the statements in the closing chapters of the Metamor- 
phoses concerning his rising fame as an orator in the courts 
of law and "the laborious doctrine of my studies" at Rome. 
We may therefore reconstruct the course of events as fol- 
lows. After meeting Pontianus at Athens and concluding 
his studies in Greece, Apuleius came to Rome, where he 
remained for some time, perfecting his Latin style, engaging 
in forensic oratory, and publishing the Metamorphoses. 
Pontianus, who was younger than Apuleius, either accom- 
panied or followed his friend to Rome, in which city he 
was still residing after Apuleius had returned to Africa. 
But Pontianus, too, had left Rome and come back to his 
African city of Oea to settle the question of his mother's 
proposed second marriage, before Apuleius, who had prob- 
ably revisited Carthage in the meantime and was now travel- 
ing east again with the intention of visiting Alexandria, 
arrived at Oea and was induced to wed the widow, who was 
considerably older than he. On the delicate question of this 
lady's exact age depends our dating of the birth of Apuleius 
and the chronology of his entire career. At the trial of 
Apuleius for magic Aemilianus, the accuser, declared that 
she was sixty when she married Apuleius, and he had previ- 
ously proposed to marry her to his brother, Clarus, whom 
Apuleius calls "a decrepit old man." ^ On the other hand, 
Apuleius asserts that the records, which he produces in 
court, of her being accepted in infancy by her father as 
his child show that she is "not much over forty," ^ — a tactful 
ambiguity which, inasmuch as we no longer have the records, 
it would probably be idle to attempt to fathom. 
No men- The chief, if not the only, objection to dating the 

Metamor- Metamorphoses before the Apology is that nothing is said 
m th" ^^ ^^ ^" ^^^ latter.^ But obviously Apuleius, when on trial 
Apology. for magic, would not mention the Metamorphoses unless his 
* Apologia, cap. 70. that he places the Apology earlier. 

' Cap. 8g. But for the reasons already given 

•To Professor Butler (Apulei I agree with the article on Apu- 
Apologia, ed. H. E. Butler and A. leius in Pauly and Wissowa and 
S. Owen, Oxford, 1914) this diffi- its citations that the Metamor- 
culty seems so insurmountable phases is Apuleius's first work. 


accusers forced him to do so. They may not have yet heard 
of it or it may at first have been published anonymously, 
although the probability is that Apuleius v^ould not have 
spent three years at Oea without bringing it to his admirers' 
attention. Or they may know of it, but the judge may not 
have admitted it as evidence on the ground that they must 
prove that Apuleius has practiced magic. The Metamor- 
phoses does not recount any personal participation of 
Apuleius himself in magic arts, unless one identifies him 
throughout with the hero Lucius; it purports to be a Latin 
rendition of Milesian tales ^ and does not seem to have 
been taken very seriously until the church fathers began to 
cite it. Or the accusers may have dwelt upon it and Apuleius 
simply have failed to take notice of their charge. All these 
suppositions may not seem very plausible, but on the other 
hand we may ask, how would Apuleius dare to write a work 
like the Metamorphoses after he had been accused and tried 
of magic? One would expect him then to drop the subject 
rather than to display an increasing interest in it. But let 
us turn to his treatment of that theme in both those works, 
and first consider the Metamorphoses. 

IL Magic in the Metamorphoses 

Vast power over nature and spirits is attributed to magic Powers 


and its practitioners in the opening chapters of the Metamor- \q^^^ 

phases. "By magic's mutterings swift streams are reversed, 
the sea is calmed, the sun stopped, foam drawn from the 
moon, the stars torn from the sky, and day turned into 
night." ^ While such assertions are received with some 
scepticism by one listener, they are largely borne out by 
the subsequent experiences of the characters in the story 
and by the feats which witches are made to perform. These 
are sometimes humorously and extravagantly presented, but 
as crime and ferocious cruelty are treated in the same spirit, 

* The work opens with the state- called Milesian manner," and that 
ment that the author "will stitch "we begin with a Grecian story." 
together varied stories in the so- 'I, 3. 



this light vein cannot be regarded as an admission of magic's 
unreaHty. On the contrar}', the magic of Thessaly is cele- 
brated with one accord the world over.^ Meroe the witch 
can "displace the sky, elevate the earth, freeze fountains, 
melt mountains, raise ghosts, bring down the gods, ex- 
tinguish the stars, and illuminate the bottomless pit." ^ 
Submerging the light of starry heaven to the lowest depths 
of hell is a power also attributed to the witch Pamphile.^ 
"By her marvelous secrets she makes ghosts and elements 
obey and serve her, disturbs the stars and coerces the 
divinities." * 
Its actual In none of the episodes recorded in The Golden Ass, 

however, do the witches find it necessary or advisable to go 
to quite so great lengths as these, although Pamphile once 
threatens the sun with eternal darkness because he is so slow 
in yielding to night when she may ply her sorcery and 
amours.'^ The witches content themselves with such accom- 
plishments as carrying on love affairs with inhabitants of 
distant India, Ethopia, and even the Antipodes, — "trifles of 
the art these and mere bagatelles" ; ^ with transforming their 
enemies into animal forms or imprisoning them helpless 
in their homes, or transporting them house and all to a spot 
a hundred miles off;"^ and, on the other hand, with break- 
ing down bolted doors to murder their victims,^ or assum- 
ing themselves the shape of weasels, birds, dogs, mice, and 
even insects in order to work their mischief unobserved ; ^ 
they then cast their victims into a deep sleep and cut their 
throats or hang them or mutilate them.^^ They often know 
what is being said about them when apparently absent, and 
they sometimes indulge in divination of the future. ^^ But to 
whatever fields of activity they may extend or confine them- 

MI, I. 'Ill, 16. 

'1,8. « I, 8. 

'II. 5- 'I Q-io 

MIX, 15. The wording of the « j' ^j^' 

translated passages throughout ^ ' ■^' 

this chapter is mainly my own, but ^^^t' ^^ ^" , jv 

I have made some use of existing H. 20 and 30; lA, 29. 

English translations. "I. n; H, 11. 


selves, their violent power is irresistible, and we are given 
to understand that it is useless to try to fight against it or 
to escape it. Its secret and occult character is also empha- 
sized, and the adjective caeca or noun latehrae are more than 
once employed to describe it.^ 

Yet there are also suggested certain limitations to the Its limita- 
power of magic. The witches seem to break down the 
bolted doors, but these resume their former place when the 
hags have departed, and are to all appearances as intact as 
before. The man, too, whose throat they have cut, whose 
blood they have drained off, and whose heart they have 
removed, awakes apparently alive the next morning and 
resumes his journey. All the events of the preceding night 
seem to have been merely an unpleasant dream. The witches 
had stuffed a sponge into the wound of his throat - with the 
adjuration, "Oh you sponge, born in the sea, beware of 
crossing running water." In the morning his traveling com- 
panion can see no sign of wound or sponge on his friend's 
throat. But when he stoops to drink from a brook, out 
falls the sponge and he drops dead. The inference, although 
Apuleius draws none, is obvious ; witches can make a corpse 
seem alive for a while but not for long, and magic ceases 
to work when you cross running water. We also get the 
impression that there is something deceptive and illusive 
about the magic of the witches, and that only the lusts and 
crimes are real which their magic enables them or their 
employers to commit and gratify. They may seem to draw 
down the sun, but it is found shining next day as usual. 
When Lucius is transformed into an ass, he retains his 
human appetite and tenderness of skin,^ — a deplorable state 
of mind and body which must be attributed to the imper- 

^11, 20, 22; III, 18. of the tribe, drag him a hundred 

'Very similar practices are re- yards or so from the camp, cut up 

counted by A. W. Howitt, Native his abdomen obliquely, take out 

Tribes of South-East Australia, the kidney and caul-fat, and then 

PP- 355-96; "the medicine-men of ?tuff a handful of grass and sand 

hostile tribes sneak into the camp into the wound." 
in the night, and with a net of a 

peculiar construction garotte one ' VI, 26. 




crimes of 


Magic as 
an art and 

fections of the magic art as well as to the humorous cruelty 
of the author. 

In The Golden Ass the practitioners of magic are usually 
witches and old and repulsive. We have to deal with won- 
ders worked by old-wives and not by Magi of Persia or 
Babylon. As we have seen and shall see yet further, their 
deeds are regarded as illicit and criminal. They are "most 
wicked women" (nequissimae mulieres),^ intent upon lust 
and crime. They practice devotiones, injurious impreca- 
tions and ceremonies.^ 

Male practitioners of magic are represented in a less 
unfavorable light. An Egyptian, who in return for a large 
sum of money engages to invoke the spirit of a dead man 
and restore the corpse momentarily to life, is called a prophet 
and a priest, though he seems a manifest necromancer and is 
himself adjured to lend his aid and to "have pity by the 
stars of heaven, by the infernal deities, by the elements of 
nature, and by the silence of night," ^ — expressions which 
are certainly suggestive of the magic powers elsewhere 
ascribed to witches. The hero of the story, Lucius, is ani- 
mated in his dabblings in the magic art by idle curiosity 
combined with thirst for learning, but not by any criminal 
motive.^ Yet after he has been transformed into an ass by 
magic, he fears to resume his human form suddenly in 
public, lest he be put to death on suspicion of practicing the 
magic art.^ 

Magic is depicted not merely as irresistible or occult or 
criminal or fallacious; it is also regularly called an art and 
a discipline. Even the practices of the witches are so dig- 
nified, Pamphile has nothing less than a laboratory on the 
roof of her house, — a wooden shelter, concealed from view 
but open to the winds of heaven and to the four points of 
the compass, — where she may ply her secret arts and where 
she spreads out her "customary apparatus." ^ This consists 

*II, 22. 

"I, 10 ; VII, 14; IX, 23,29. 
"11, 28. 

MI, 6; III, 19. 
•Ill, 29. 
•III. 17. 


of all sorts of aromatic herbs, of metal plates inscribed with 
cryptic characters, a chest filled with little boxes containing- 
various ointments,^ and portions of human corpses obtained 
from sepulchers, shipwrecks (or birds of prey, according as 
the reading is navium or avium), public executions, and the 
victims of wild beasts.^ It will be recalled that Galen repre- 
sented medical students as most likely to secure human 
skeletons or bodies to dissect from somewhat similar 
sources; and possibly they might incur suspicion of magic 

All this makes it clear that to work magic one must have Materials 
materials. The witches seem especially avid for parts of ^"^PWed. 
the human body. Pamphile sends her maid, Fotis, to the 
barber's shop to try to steal some cuttings of the hair of a 
youth of whom she is enamoured ; ^ and another story is 
told of witches who by mistake cut off and replaced with 
wax the nose and ears of a man guarding the corpse instead 
of those of the dead body.^ Other witches who murdered 
a man carefully collected his blood in a bladder and took 
it away with them.^ But parts of other animals are also 
employed in their magic, and stones as well as varied herbs 
and twigs. ^ In trying to entice the beloved Boeotian youth 
Pamphile used still quivering entrails and poured libations 
of spring water, milk, and honey, as well as placing the 
hairs — ^which she supposed were his — with many kinds of 
incense upon live coals. "^ To turn herself into an owl she 
anointed herself from top to toe with ointment from one 
of her little boxes, and also made much use of a lamp.® To 
regain her human form she has only to drink, and bathe in, 
spring water mixed with anise and laurel leaf, — "See how 
great a result is attained by such small and insignificant 
herbs !"^ — while Lucius is told that eating roses will re- 
fill, 21. «II, 5. "Surculis et lapillis et id 

I, 10; II, 20-21. genus frivolis inhalatis." 

'HI, 16. 'Ill, 18. 

*II, 23-30. "HI, 21. 

•I, 13. »III, 23. 



and char- 

Store him from asinine to human form.^ The Egyptian 
prophet makes use of herbs in his necromancy, placing one 
on the face and another on the breast of the corpse; and he 
himself wears linen robes and sandals of palm leaves.^ 

Besides materials, incantations are much employed,^ 
while the Egyptian prophet turns towards the east and 
"silently imprecates" the rising sun. As this last suggests, 
careful observance of rite and ceremony also play their part, 
and Pamphile's painstaking procedure is described in precise 
detail. Divine aid is once mentioned ^ and is perhaps another 
essential for success. More than one witch is called divina^ 
and magic is termed a divine discipline.^ But we have also 
heard the witches spoken of as coercing the gods rather 
than depending upon them for assistance. Their magic 
seems to be performed mainly by using things and words in 
the right ways. 

Besides the witches (magae or sagae) and what Apuleius 
calls magic by name, a number of other charlatans and 
superstitions of a kindred nature are mentioned in The 
Golden Ass. Such a one is the Egyptian "prophet" already 
described. Such was the Chaldean who for a time as- 
tounded Corinth by his wonderful predictions, but had 
been unable to foresee his own shipwreck.'^ On learning 
this last fact, a business man who was about to pay him one 
hundred denarii for a prognostication snatched up his 
money again and made off. Such were the painted disrepu- 
table crew of the Syrian goddess who went about answering 
all inquiries concerning the future with the same ambiguous 
couplet.^ Such were the jugglers whom Lucius saw at 
Athens swallowing swords or balancing a spear in the 

'in, 25. 
'U, 28. 

' Examples are : I, 3, magico 
susurramine; II, i, artis magicae 
nativa cantamina ; II, 5, omnis 
carminis sepulchralis magistra 
creditur; II, 22, diris cantamini- 
bus somno custodes obruunt ; III, 
18, tunc decantatis spirantibus 

fibris; III, 21, multumque cum 
lucerna secreta collocuta. 

*I, II, quo numinis ministerio. 

^ I, 8, saga, inquit, et divina ; 
IX, 29, saga ilia et divini potens. 

'Ill, 19. 

'II, 12-14. 

*VIII, 26-27; IX, 8. 



throat while a boy climbed to the top of it.-^ Such were the 
physicians who turned poisoners." 

Other passages allude to astrology ^ besides that already Various 
cited concerning the Chaldean. Divination from dreams is ^<^q^I^ ^' 
also discussed. In the fourth book the old female servant 
tells the captive maiden not to be terrified "by the idle fig- 
ments of dreams" and explains that they often go by con- 
traries ; but in the last book the hero is several times guided 
or forewarned by dreams. Omens are believed in. Starting 
left foot first loses a man a business opportunity,^ and 
another is kicked out of a house for his ill-omened words."^ 
The violent deaths of all three sons of the owner of another 
house are presaged by the following remarkable conglomera- 
tion of untoward portents: a hen lays a chick instead of an 
tgg ; blood spurts up from under the table ; a servant rushes 
in to announce that the wine is boiling in all the jars in the 
cellar; a weasel is seen dragging a dead snake out-of-doors; 
a green frog leaps from the sheep-dog's mouth and then a 
ram tears open the dog's throat at one bite.^ 

Of scientific discussion or information there is little in Some bits 

of science 

the Metamorphoses. When Pamphile foretells the weather and 
for the next day by inspection of her lamp, Lucius suggests religion, 
that this artificial flame may retain some properties from 
its heavenly original. '^ The herb mandragora is described 
as inducing a sleep similar to death, but as not fatal; and 
the beaver is said to emasculate itself in order to escape its 
hunters.^ We should feel lost without mention of a dragon 
in a book of this sort, and one is introduced who is large 
enough to devour a man.^ It is interesting to note for pur- 
poses of comparison, — inasmuch as we shall presently take 
up the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, a Neo-Pythagorean, 
and later shall learn from the Recognitions of Clement that 
the apostle Peter was accustomed to bathe at dawn in the 
*I, 4. 'II, 11-12. 

*X, II, 25. *X, II. For bibliography on the 

'VIII, 24; XI, 22, 25. mandragora see Frazer (1918) I, 

* I, 5. 2>77, note 2, in his chapter, "Jacob 

" II, 26. and the Mandrakes." 

" IX, 33-34- -VIII, 21. 



Magic in 

sea, — that Lucius, while still in the form of an ass, in his 
zeal for purification plunged into the sea and submerged his 
head beneath the wave seven times, because the divine 
Pythagoras had proclaimed that number as especially appro- 
priate to religious rites.^ **It has been said that The Golden 
Ass is the first book in European literature showing piety 
in the modern sense, and the most disreputable adventures 
of Lucius lead, it is true, in the end to a religious climax." 
But, adds Professor Duncan B. Macdonald, "Few books, 
in spite of fantastic gleams of color and light, move under 
such leaden-weighted skies as The Golden Ass. There is no 
real God in that world; all things are in the hands of en- 
chanters; man is without hope for here and hereafter; full 
of yearnings he struggles and takes refuge in strange 
cults." 2 

While magic plays a larger part in The Golden Ass than 
in any other extant Greek romance, it is not unusual in the 
others to find the hero and heroine exposed to perils from 
magicians, or themselves falsely charged with magic, as in 
the Aethiopica of Heliodorus, where Charicles is "con- 
demned to be burned on a charge of poisoning." ^ In the 
Christian romances, too, as the Recognitions will show us 
later, there are plenty of allusions to magic and demons. 
Meanwhile we are reminded that in the Roman Empire accu- 
sations of magic were made not merely in story books but 
in real life by the trial for magic of the author of the 
Metamorphoses himself, and we next turn to the Apology 
which he delivered upon that occasion. 

of the 

IIL Magic in the Apology 

The Apologia has every appearance of being preserved 
just as it was delivered and perhaps as it was taken down 
by shorthand writers ; it does not seem to have undergone 
the subsequent revision to which Cicero subjected some of 
his orations. It must have been hastily composed, since 

*XI, I. 

•Macdonald (1909), p. 128. 

"VIII, 9. 


Apuleius states that it has been only five or six days since 
the charges were suddenly brought against him, while he 
was occupied in defending another lawsuit brought against 
his wife.^ There also are numerous apparently extempore 
passages in the oration, notably those where Apuleius 
alludes to the effect which his statements produce, now upon 
his accusers, now upon the proconsul sitting in judgment. 
From the Florida we know that Apuleius was accustomed to 
improvise.^ Moreover, in the Apology certain statements 
are made by Apuleius which might be turned against him 
with damaging effect and which he probably would have 
omitted, had he had the leisure to go over his speech care- 
fully before the trial. For instance, in denying the charge 
that he had caused to be made for himself secretly out of 
the finest wood a horrible magic figure in the form of a 
ghost or skeleton, he declares that it is only a little image of 
Mercury made openly by a well-known artisan of the town.' 
But he has earlier stated that "Mercury, carrier of incanta- 
tions," is one of the deities invoked in magic rites ; "* and in 
another passage ^ has recounted how the outcome of the 
Mithridatic war was investigated at Tralles by magic, and 
how a boy, gazing at an image of Mercury in water, had 
predicted the future in one hundred and sixty verses. But 
this is not all. In a third passage ® he actually quotes 
Pythagoras to the effect that Mercury ought not to be carved 
out of every kind of wood. 

* Cap. I. Osiris, says Budge at p. 85, "a 
'Florida, caps. 24-26. figure was fashioned in such a 
'Caps. 61-63. The following way as to include the chief char- 
passages from E. A. W. Budge, acteristics of the forms of these 
Egyptian Magic (1899), perhaps gods, and was inserted in a rect- 
furnish an explanation of the true angular wooden stand which was 
purpose and character of Apu- intended to represent the coffin or 
leius's wooden figure: p. 84, chest out of which the trinity 
"Under the heading of 'Magical Ptah-Seker-Ausar came forth. 
Figures' must certainly be in- On the figure itself and on the 
eluded the so-called Ptah-Seker- sides of the stand were inscribed 
Ausar figure, which is usually prayers. . . ." Such a figure in a 
made of wood ; it is often solid, coffin might well be described by 
but is sometimes made hollow, the accusers as the horrible form 
and is usually let into a rectangu- of a ghost or skeleton, 
lar wooden stand which may be * Cap. 31. 
either solid or hollow." To get ° Cap. 42. 
the protection of Ptah, Seker, and ' Cap. 43. 


Philosophy If in the Metamorphoses the practice of magic is im- 
magic. py^g^j chiefly to old-wives, in the Apology a main concern of 
Apuleius is to defend philosophers in general ^ and himself 
in particular from "the calumny of magic." ^ Epimenides, 
Orpheus, Pythagoras, Ostanes, Empedocles, Socrates, and 
Plato have been so suspected, and it consoles Apuleius in 
his own trial to reflect that he is but sharing the undeserved 
fate of "so many and such great men." ^ In this connection 
he states that those philosophers who have taken an especial 
interest in theology, "who investigate the providence of the 
universe too curiously and celebrate the gods too enthusias- 
tically," are the ones to be suspected of magic; while those 
who devote themselves to natural science pure and simple 
are more liable to be called irreligious atheists. 

Magic But what is it to be a magician, Apuleius asks the ac- 

^ "^ • cusers,* and therewith we face again the question of the 
definition of magic, and Apuleius gradually answers his own 
query in the course of the oration. Magic, in the ordinary 
use of the word, is described in much the same way as in 
the Metamorphoses. It has been proscribed by Roman law 
since the Twelve Tables ; it is hideous and horrible ; it is 
secret and solitary; it murmurs its incantations in the dark- 
ness of the night.^ It is an art of ill repute, of illicit evil 
deeds, of crimes and enormities.^ Instead of simply calling 
it magia, Apuleius often applies to it the double expres- 
sion, magica maleficia.'^ Perhaps he does this intention- 
ally. In one passage he states that he will refute certain 
charges which the accusers have brought against him, first, 
by showing that the things he has been charged with have 
nothing to do with magic ; and second, by proving that, even 
if he were a magician, there was no cause or occasion for 
his having committed any maleficiuni in this connection.' 

* Caps. 1-3. mcnt soupgonnes de Magie, Paris, 

'Cap. 2. 1625. 

•Caps. 27 and 31. For the same * Cap. 25. 
thought applied in the case of " Cap. 47. 

medieval men see Gabriel Naude, * Cap. 25. 

Apologie pour tons les grands ' Caps. 9, 42, 61, 6^. 

^"rsonoges qui ont este fiusse- " Cap. 28. 


That is to say, maleficium, literally "an evil deed," means 
an injury done another by means of magic art. The pro- 
consul sitting in judgment takes a similar view and has 
asked the accusers, Apuleius tells us,^ when they asserted 
that a woman had fallen into an epileptic fit in his pres- 
ence and that this was due to his having bewitched her, 
whether the woman died or what good her having a fit 
did Apuleius. This is significant as hinting that Roman 
law did not condemn a man for magic unless he were proved 
to have committed some crime or made some unjust gain 

Does Apuleius for his part mean to suggest a distinction Good and 
between magia and magica maleficia, and to hint, as he did 
not do in the Metamorphoses, that there is a good as well as 
a bad magic? He cannot be said to maintain any such dis- 
tinction consistently; often in the Apology magia alone as 
well as maleficium is used in a bad sense. But he does sug- 
gest such a thought and once voices it quite explicitly.^ 
"If," he says, "as I have read in many authors, magus in the 
Persian language corresponds to the word sacerdos in ours, 
what crime, pray, is it to be a priest and duly know and un- 
derstand and cherish the rules of ceremonial, the sacred cus- 
toms, the laws of religion?" Plato describes magic as part 
of the education of the young Persian prince by the four 
wisest and best men of the realm, one of whom instructs 
him in the magic of Zoroaster which is the worship of the 
gods. "Do you hear, you who rashly charge me with magic, 
that this art is acceptable to the immortal gods, consists in 
celebrating and reverencing them, is pious and prophetic, 
and long since was held by Zoroaster and Oromazes, its au- 
thors, to be noble and divine?" ^ In common speech, how- 
ever, Apuleius recognizes that a magician is one "who by 
his power of addressing the immortal gods is able to accom- 
plish whatever he will by an almost incredible force of in- 
cantations." But anyone who believes that another man 
possesses such a power as this should be afraid to accuse him, 

* Cap. 48. " Cap. 25. ' Cap. 26. 


says Apuleius, who thinks by this ingenious dilemma to 
prove the insincerity of his accusers. Nevertheless he pres- 
ently mentions that Mercury, Venus, Luna, and Trivia are 
the deities usually summoned in the ceremonies of the ma- 
Magic and It will be noted that Apuleius connects magic with the 
gods and religion more in the Apology than in the Metamor- 
phoses. There his emphasis was on the natural materials 
employed by the witches and their almost scientific labora- 
tories. But in the Apology both Persian Magi and common 
magicians are associated with the worship or invocation of 
the gods, and it is theologians rather than natural philoso- 
phers who incur suspicion of magic. 

Magic and But it may be that the reason why Apuleius abstains in 

science • • • 

the Apology from suggesting any connection or confusion 

between magic and natural science is that the accusers have 
already laid far too much stress upon this point for his lik- 
ing. He has been charged with the composition of a tooth- 
powder,- with use of a mirror,^ with the purchase of a sea- 
hare, a poisonous mollusc, and two other fish appropriate 
from their obscene shapes and names for use as love-charms,* 
He is said to have had a horrible wooden image or seal con- 
structed secretly for use in his magic, ^ to keep other instru- 
ments of his art mysteriously wrapped in a handkerchief in 
the house, ^ and to have left in the vestibule of another house 
where he lodged "many feathers of birds" and much soot 
on the walls. "^ All these charges make it evident that natural 
and artificial objects are, as in the Metamorphoses, consid- 
ered essential or at least usual in performing magic. More- 
over, so ready have the accusers shown themselves to inter- 
pret the interest of Apuleius in natural science as an evi- 
dence of the practice of magic by him, that he sarcastically 
remarks ^ that he is glad that they were unaware that he had 
read Theophrastus On beasts that bite and sting and Ni- 

*Cap. 31. "Cap. 61, 

* Cap. 6. " Cap. 53- 

• Cap. 13. ' Cap. 58. 
*Caps. 30, 33, "Cap. 41, 


cander On the bites of wild beasts (usually called 
Theriaca),^ or they would have accused him of being a 
poisoner as well as a magician. 

Apuleius shows that he really is a student, if not an au- Medical 
thority, in medicine and natural science. The gift of the scientific 
tooth-powder and the falling of the woman in a fit were inci- knowledgt 
dents of his occasional practice of medicine, and he also sees leius. 
no harm in his seeking certain remedies from fish.^ He 
repeats Plato's theory of disease from the Timaeus and cites 
Theophrastus's admirable work On Epileptics.^ Mention 
of the mirror starts him off upon an optical disquisition 
in which he remarks upon theories of vision and reflection, 
upon liquid and solid, flat and convex and concave mirrors, 
and cites the Catoptrica of Archimedes.* He also regards 
himself as an experimental zoologist and has conducted all 
his researches publicly.^ He procures fish in order to study 
them scientifically as Aristotle, Theophrastus, Eudemus, 
Lycon, and other pupils of Plato did.® He has read innumer- 
able books of this sort and sees no harm in testing by ex- 
perience what has been written. Indeed he is himself writ- 
ing in both Greek and Latin a work on Natural Questions 
in which he hopes to add what has been omitted in earlier 
books and to remedy some of their defects and to arrange 
all in a handier and more systematic fashion. He has pas- 
sages from the section on fishes in this work read aloud in 

Throughout the Apology Apuleius occasionally airs his He repeats 
scientific attainments by specific statements and illustrations errx)!-^'^ 
from the zoological and other scientific fields. Indeed the 

^ Nicander lived in the second at Paris, which O. M. Dalton 
century B.C. under Attalus III (Bycantine Art and Archaeology, 
of Pergamum. Of his works p. 483) says "is evidently a pains- 
there are extant the Theriaca in taking copy of a very early orig- 
958 hexameters and another poem, inal, perhaps almost contemporary 
the Alexipharmaca, of 630 lines; with Nicander himself." 
ed. J. G. Schneider, 1792 and ^ Cap. 40. 
1816; by O. Schneider, 1856. 'Caps. 49-51. 
There is an illuminated eleventh * Caps. 15-16. 
century manuscript of the Then- "Cap. 40. 
aca in the Bibliotheque Nationale ° Cap. 36. 


presence of such allusions is as noticeable in the Apology as 
was their absence from the Metamorphoses. But they go to 
show that his knowledge was greater than his discretion, 
since for the most part they repeat familiar errors of con- 
temporary science. We are told — the story is also in Aris- 
totle, Pliny, and Aelian — how the crocodile opens its jaws to 
have its teeth picked by a friendly bird,^ that the viper gnaws 
its way out of its mother's womb,^ that fish are spontane- 
ously generated from slime,^ and that burning the stone gag- 
ates will cause an epileptic to have a fit.* On the other hand, 
the skin shed by a spotted lizard is a remedy for epilepsy, 
but you must snatch it up speedily or the lizard will turn 
and devour it, either from natural appetite or just because 
he knows that you want it.^ This tale, so characteristic of 
the virtues attributed to parts of animals and the human 
motives ascribed to the animals themselves, is taken by Apu- 
leius from a treatise by Theophrastus entitled Jealous Ani- 
Apparent In defending what he terms his scientific investigations 

o^"maei(f fi"oni the aspersion of magic Apuleius is at times either a 
and occult trifle disingenuous and inclined to trade upon the ignorance 
of his judge and accusers, or else not as well informed him- 
self as he might be in matters of natural science and of oc- 
cult science. He contends that fish are not employed in 
magic arts, asks mockingly if fish alone possess some prop- 
erty hidden from other men and known to magicians, and 
affirms that if the accuser knows of any such he must be a 
magician rather than Apuleius.® He insists that he did not 
make use of a sea-hare and describes the "fish" in question 
in detail,''' but this description, as is pointed out in Butler 
and Owen's edition of the Apology,^ tends to convince us 
that it really was a sea-hare. In the case of the two fish with 
obscene names, he ridicules the arguing from similarity of 
names to similarity of powers in the things so designated, as 

*Cap. 8. 'Cap. 51. 

' Cap. 85. ' Caps. 30, 42. 

' Cap. 38. ' Cap. 40. 

' Cap. 45- " P. 98. 



if that were not what magicians and astrologers and believ- 
ers in sympathy and antipathy were always doing. You 
might as well say, he declares, that a pebble is good for the 
stone and a crab for an ulcer,^ as if precisely these remedies 
for those diseases were not found in the Pseudo-Dioscorides 
and in Pliny's Natural History."^ 

It is hardly probable that in the passages just cited Apu- Despite an 
leius was pretending to be ignorant of matters with which ^f ]^^ow\°" 
he was really acquainted, since as a rule he is eager to show edge, 
off his knowledge even of magic itself. Thus the accusers 
affirmed that he had bewitched a boy by incantations in a 
secret place with an altar and a lamp ; Apuleius criticizes 
their story by saying that they should have added that he 
employed the boy for purposes of divination, citing tales 
which he has read to this efifect in Varro and many other 
authors.^ And he himself is ready to believe that the hu- 
man soul, especially in one who is still young and innocent, 
may, if soothed and distracted by incantations and odors, 
forget the present, return to its divine and immortal nature, 
and predict the future. When he reads some technical 
Greek names from his treatise on fishes, he suspects that the 
accuser will protest that he is uttering magic names in some 
Egyptian or Babylonian rite.^ And as a matter of fact, when 
later he mentioned the names of a number of celebrated ma- 
gicians,^ the accusers appear to have raised such a tumult 
that Apuleius deemed it prudent to assure the judge that he 
had simply read them in reputable books in public libraries, 
and that to know such names was one thing, to practice the 
magic art quite another matter. 

Apuleius affirms that one of his accusers had consulted Attitude 

he knows not what Chaldeans how he might profitably marry toward 

° ^ _ •' •' astrology. 

off his daughter, and that they had prophesied truthfully 
that her first husband would die within a few months. "As 
for what she would inherit from him, they fixed that up, as 

^ Cap. 35. Giessen, 1908, p. 224. 

'So Abt has pointed out: Die * Caps. A^-AZ- 

Apologie des Apuleius von Ma- * Cap. 38. 

dau^a und die antike Zauberei, * Cap. 90. 


they usually do, to suit the person consulting them." ^ But 
in this respect their prediction turned out to be quite incor- 
rect. We are left in some doubt, however, whether their 
failure in the second case is not regarded as due merely to 
their knavery, and their first successful prediction to the 
rule of the stars. Elsewhere, however, Apuleius does state 
that belief in fate and in magic are incompatible, since there 
is no place left for the force of spells and incantations, if 
everything is ruled by fate.^ But in other extant works ^ he 
speaks of the heavenly bodies as visible gods, and Lauren- 
tius Lydus attributes astrological treatises to him.* 
His theory In one passage of the Apology Apuleius affirms his be- 

lief with Plato in the existence of certain intermediate be- 
ings or powers between gods and men, who govern all div- 
inations and the miracles of the magicians.^ In the treatise 
on the god or demon of Socrates ® he repeats this thought 
and tells us more of these mediators or demons. Their na- 
tive element is the air, which Apuleius thought extended as 
far as the moon,'^ just as Aristotle ^ tells of animals who 
live in fire and are extinguished with it, and just as the fifth 
element, that "divine and inviolable" ether, contains the di- 
vine bodies of the stars. With the superior gods the demons 
have immortality in common, but like mortals they are sub- 
ject to passions and to feeling and capable of reason.^ But 
their bodies are very light and like clouds, a point peculiar 
to themselves. ^° Since both Plutarch and Apuleius wrote 
essays on the demon of Socrates and both derived, or 
thought that they derived, their theories concerning demons 
from Plato, it is interesting to note some divergences be- 
tween their accounts. Apuleius confines them to the atmos- 
phere beneath the moon more exclusively than Plutarch 
does; unlike Plutarch he represents them as immortal, not 
merely long-lived; and he has more to say about the sub- 

' Cap. 97. 

" Cap. 43. 

'Cap. 84. 

• Cap. 6. 

*De mundo, cap. i; De deo 

'■ De deo Socratis, cap. 8. 

Socratis, cap. 4. 

^ Hist. Anim., V,_ 19. 

* De mens., IV., 7, 73 ; De os- 

^ De deo Socratis, cap. 13. 

tent., 3, 4, 7, 10, 44, 54. 

^'' Ibid., caps. 9-1'^ 


stance of their bodies and less concerning their relations 
with disembodied souls. 

Apuleius would have been a well-known name in the Apuleius 
middle ages, if only indirectly through the use made by nr'ddle 
Augustine in The City of God ^ of the Metamorphoses in ages, 
describing magic and of the De dec Socratis in discussing 
demons.^ He also speaks of Apuleius in three of his letters,^ 
declaring that for all his magic arts he could win neither a 
throne nor judicial power. Augustine was not quite sure 
whether Apuleius had actually been transformed into an ass 
or not. A century earlier Lactantius * spoke of the many 
marvels remembered of Apuleius. That manuscripts of the 
Metamorphoses, Apology and Florida were not numerous 
until after the twelfth and thirteenth centuries may be in- 
ferred from the fact that all the extant manuscripts seem to 
be derived from a single one of the later eleventh century, 
written in a Lombard hand and perhaps from Monte Cas- 
sino.^ The article on Apuleius in Pauly and Wissowa states 
that the best manuscripts of his other works are an eleventh 
century codex at Brussels and a twelfth century manuscript 
at Munich,^ but does not mention a twelfth century manu- 
script of the De deo Socratis in the British Museum.'^ An- 
other indication that in the twelfth century there were manu- 
scripts of Apuleius in England or at Chartres and Paris is 
that John of Salisbury borrows from the De dogmate Pla- 
tonis in his De migis curialiiim} In the earlier middle ages 
there was ascribed to Apuleius a work on herbs of which 
we shall treat later. 

^ XVIII, 18. 395 A.D. and 397 A.D. G. Huet, 

*VIII, 14-22. "Le roman d'Apulee etait-il 

* Epistles 102, 136, 138, in Migne, connu au moyen age," Le Moyen 
PL, vol. 23. Age (1917), 44-52, holds that the 

* Diz'in. Instit., V, 3. Metamorphoses was not known 

* Codex Laurentianus, plut. 68, directly to the medieval vernacu- 
2. _ The same MS contains the lar romancers. See also B. Stum- 
Histories and Annals (XI-XVI) fall. Das Mdrchen von Amor und 
of Tacitus. A subscription to the Psyche in Seinem Fortleben, Leip- 
ninth book of the Metamorphoses zig, 1907. 

indicates that the original manu- * CLM 621. 

script from which this was de- ' Harleian 3969. 

rived or copied was produced in " VII, $• 






Compared with Apuleius — Philostratus's sources — Time and space 
covered — Philostratus's audience — Object of the Life — Apollonius 
charged with magic — A confusion of terms — The Magi and magic — 
Apollonius and the Magi — Philostratus on wizards — Apollonius and 
wizards — Quacks and old-wives — The Brahmans — Marvels of the 
Brahmans — Magical methods of the Brahmans — Medicine of the 
Brahmans — Some signs of astrology — Interest in natural science — Nat- 
ural law or special providence? — Cases of scepticism — Anecdotes of 
animals — Dragons of India — Occult virtues of gems — Absence of num- 
ber mysticism — Mantike or the art of divination — Divining power of 
Apollonius — Dreams — Interpretation of omens — Animals and divina- 
tion — Divination by fire — Other so-called predictions — Apollonius and 
the demons — Not all demons are evil — Philostratus's faith in demons 
— The ghost of Achilles — Healing the sick and raising the dead — Other 
marvels — Golden wrynecks and the iunx — Why named iunx? — 
Apollonius in the middle ages. 

Some fifty years after the birth of Apuleius occurred 
that of Philostratus, whose career and interests were some- 
what similar, although he came from the Aegean island of 
Lemnos instead of the neighborhood of Carthage and wrote 
in Greek rather than Latin. But like Apuleius he was a 
student of rhetoric and went first to Athens and then to 
Rome, The resemblance is perhaps closer between Apuleius 
and Apollonius of Tyana, whose life Philostratus wrote and 
of whom we know more than of his biographer. Like Apu- 
leius Apollonius had to defend himself in court against the 
accusation of magic, and Philostratus gives us what pur- 
ports to be his apology on that occasion. Two centuries 
afterwards Augustine in one of his letters ^ names Apollo- 
nius and Apuleius as examples of men who were addicted to 
the magic art and who, the pagans said, performed greater 

' Ep. 136. 


miracles than Christ did. A century before Augustine 
Lactantius states ^ that a certain philosopher who had 
"vomited forth" three books "against the Christian religion 
and name" had compared the miracles of Apollonius favor- 
ably with those of Christ; Lactantius marvels that he did 
not mention Apuleius as well. Like Apuleius, Apollonius 
was a man of broad learning who traveled widely and sought 
initiation into mysteries and cults. Apuleius was a Platonist ; 
Apollonius, a Pythagorean. We may also note a resemblance 
between the Metamorphoses and the Life of Apollonius. 
Both seem to elaborate earlier writings and both have much 
to say of transformations, wizards, demons, and the occult. 
The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, however, must be taken 
more seriously than the Metamorphoses. If the African's 
work is a rhetorical romance embodying a certain auto- 
biographical element, a Milesian tale to which personal re- 
ligious experiences are annexed, then the work by Philos- 
tratus is a rhetorical biography with a tinge of romance and 
a good deal of sermonizing. 

Philostratus ^ composed the Life of Apollonius about Phiio- 
217 A. D, at the request of the learned wife of the emperor stratus's 

. . ^ ^ sources. 

Septimius Severus, to whose literary circle he belonged. 
The empress had come into possession of some hitherto 
unknown memoirs of Apollonius by a certain Damis of 
Nineveh, who had been his disciple and had accompanied 
him upon many of his travels. Some member of Damis's 
family had brought these documents to the empress's atten- 
tion. Some scholars incline to the view that she was de- 
ceived by an impostor, but it hardly seems that there would 
be sufficient profit in the venture to induce anyone to take 
the pains to forge such memoirs. Also I can see no reason 
why a contemporary of Apollonius should not have said and 
believed everything which Philostratus represents Damis as 
saying; on the contrary it seems to me just what would be 

^Divin. Instit., V, 2-3. named Philostratus and which 

^ works should be assigned to each, 

Concerning other writers see Schmid (1913) 608-20. 


said by a naif, gullible, and devoted disciple, who was in- 
clined to exaggerate the abilities and achievements of his 
master and to take literally everything that Apollonius ut- 
tered ironically or figuratively. Other accounts of Apollo- 
nius were already in existence by a Maximus of Aegae, 
where Apollonius had spent part of his life, and by Moera- 
genes, but the memoirs of Damis seem to have offered much 
new material. Philostratus accordingly wrote a new life 
based largely upon Damis, but also making use of the will 
and epistles of Apollonius, many of which the emperor Ha- 
drian had earlier collected, and of the traditions still current 
in the cities and temples which Apollonius had frequented 
and which Philostratus now took the trouble to visit. It 
has sometimes been suggested, chiefly by Christian writers 
intent upon discrediting the career of Apollonius, that Phil- 
ostratus invented Damis and his memoirs. But Philostratus 
seems straightforward in describing the pains he has been to 
in preparing the Life, and certainly is more explicit and 
systematic in stating his sources than other ancient biogra- 
phers like Plutarch and Suetonius are. He appears to fol- 
low his sources rather closely and not to invent new inci- 
dents, although he may, like Thucydides and other ancient 
historians, have taken liberties with the speeches and argu- 
ments put into his characters' mouths. And through the 
work, despite his belief in demons and marvels, he now and 
then gives evidence of a moderate and sceptical mind, at 
least for his times. 
Time and Apollonius lived in the first century of our era and died 

covered. during the reign of Nerva well advanced in years. It is 
therefore of a period over a century before his own that Phil- 
ostratus writes. He is said to commit a number of errors 
in history and geography,^ but we must remember that mis- 
takes in geography were a failing of the best ancient his- 

* See article on Apollonius of that he came to the conclusion that 
Tyana in Pauly-Wissowa. Priaulx, either Apollonius never visited In- 
The Indian Travels of Apollonius dia, or, if he did, that Damis 
of Tyana, London, 1873, p. 62, "never accompanied him but fab- 
found the geography of Apollo- ricated the journal Philostratus 
nius's Indian travels so erroneous speaks of." 


torians such as Polybius, and the general picture drawn of 
the emperors and poHtics of Apollonius's time is not far 
wrong. It is true that Philostratus also makes use of tra- 
dition which has gradually formed since the death of Apol- 
lonius, and introduces explanations or comments of his own 
on various matters. It is, however, not the facts either of 
Apollonius's career or of his times that concern us but the 
beliefs and superstitions which we find in Philostratus's 
Life of him. Whether these are of the first, second, or 
early third century is scarcely necessary or possible for us 
to distinguish. If Damis records them, Philostratus accepts 
them, and the probability is that they apply not only to all 
three centuries but to a long period before and after. The 
territory covered in the Life is almost as extensive ; it ranges 
all over the Roman Empire, alludes occasionally to the Celts 
and Scythians, and opens up Ethiopia and India ^ to our gaze. 
Apollonius was a great traveler and there are many inter- 
esting and informing passages concerning ships, sailing, pi- 
lots, merchants and sea-trade.^ 

If we ask further, for what class of readers was the philo^- 
Life intended, the answer is, for the intellectual and learned. aiKjJ^nce 
Apollonius himself was distinctly a Hellene. Philostratus 
represents him as often quoting Homer and other bygone 
Greek authors, or mentioning names from early Greek his- 
tory such as Lycurgus and Aristides. One of his aims was 
to restore the degenerate Greek cities of his own day to their 
ancient morality. Furthermore, Apollonius never cared for 
many disciples, and neither required them to observe all the 
rules of life which he himself followed, nor admitted them 
to all his interviews with other sages and his initiations into 
sacred mysteries. This aloofness of the sage is somewhat 
reflected in his biographer. The Life is an attempt not to 

^ Priaulx, however, regarded its Indian merchants — Alexandria," 
statements concerning India as or from earHer authors, 
such as might have been "easily- 
collected at that great mart for ^III, 23, 35; IV, 9, 32; V, 20; 
Indian commodities and resort for VI, 12, 16; VII, 10, 12, 15-16. 



Object of 
the Life. 


popularize the teachings of Apollonius but to justify him 
before the learned world. 

The charge had been frequently made that Apollonius 
came illegitimately by his wisdom and acquired it violently 
by magic. Philostratus would restore him to the ranks of 
true philosophers who gained wisdom by worthy and licit 
methods. He declares that he was not a wizard, as many 
suppose, but a notable Pythagorean, a man of broad culture, 
an intellectual and moral teacher, a religious ascetic and re- 
former, probably even a prophet of divine and superhuman 
nature. It is not now so generally held by Christian writers 
as it used to be that Philostratus wrote the Life with the 
Gospel story of Christ in mind, and that his purpose was to 
imitate or to parody or to oppose a rival narrative to the 
Christian story and teaching. At no point in the Life does 
Philostratus betray unmistakably even a passing acquaint- 
ance with the Gospels, much less display any sign of animus 
against them. Moreover, the Christian historian and apolo- 
gist, Eusebius, who lived in the century following Philos- 
tratus and was familiar with his Life of Apollonius, in writ- 
ing a reply to a treatise in which Hierocles, a provincial gov- 
ernor under Diocletian, had compared Apollonius with 
Jesus, distinctly states that Hierocles was the first to sug- 
gest such an idea.^ Such similarities then as may exist be- 
tween the Life and the Gospels must be taken as examples of 
beliefs common to that age. 

Apollonius was accused of sorcery or magic during his 
lifetime by the rival philosopher Euphrates. The four 
books on Apollonius written by Moeragenes also portrayed 
him as a wizard ; ^ and Eusebius in his reply to Hierocles 
ascribed the miracles wrought by Apollonius to sorcery and 
the aid of evil demons.^ Earlier the satirist Lucian de- 

^ See the treatise of Eusebius 
Against Apollonius. Lactantius 
(Divin. Inst., V, 2-3) probably 
had reference to Hierocles in 
speaking of a philosopher who 
had written three books against 
Christianity and declared the 

miracles of Apollonius as wonder- 
ful as those of Christ. 

' So Origen says (Against Cel- 
sus, VI, 41) and Philostratus im- 
plies (I, 3). 

' See the Against Apollonius, 
caps. 31, 35. 


scribed Alexander the pseudo-prophet as having been in his 
youth an apprentice to "one of the charlatans who deal in 
magic and mystic incantations, ... a native of Tyana, an 
associate of the great Apollonius, and acquainted with all 
his heroics." ^ 

In defending his hero against these charges Philostratus A con- 
is guilty himself both of some ambiguous use of terms and of terms 
of some loose thinking. The same ambiguous terminology, 
however, will be found in other discussions of magic. In a 
few passages Philostratus denies that Apollonius was a 
/xd7os but much oftener exculpates him from the charge 
of being a 76:7s or yoijTrjs. With the latter word or words 
there is no difficulty. It means a wizard, sorcerer, or en- 
chanter, and is always employed in a sinister or disreputable 
sense. With the term fxayos the case is different, as with the 
Latin magus. It may signify an evil magician, or it may 
refer to one of the Magi of the East, who are generally re- 
garded as wise and good men. This delicate distinction, 
however, is not easy to maintain and Philostratus fails to do 
so, while Mr. Conybeare in his English translation - makes 
confusion worse confounded not only by translating nayos 
as "wizard" instead of "magician," but by sometimes doing 
this when it really should be rendered as "one of the Magi." 
It may also be noted that Philostratus locates the Magi in 
Babylonia as well as in Persia. 

To begin with, in his second chapter Philostratus says The Magi 
that some consider Apollonius a magician "because he con- ^" magic 
sorted with the Magi of the Babylonians, and the Brahmans 
of the Indians, and the Gymnosophists in Egypt." But they 
are wrong in this. "For Empedocles and Pythagoras him- 
self and Democritus, although they associated with the Magi 
and spake many divine utterances, yet did not stoop to the 
art" (of magic). Plato, too, he goes on to say, although 

* 'AXf^avSpos, V xPevSo/xavTis, cap. 5. text in the recent Loeb Qassical 

In the passage quoted I have used Library edition, both racy and ac- 

Fowler's translation. curate, and have employed it in a 

" In other respects, however, I number of the quotations which 

have usually found this transla- follow, 
tion, which accompanies the Greek 



he visited Egypt and its priests and prophets, was never re- 
garded as a magician. In this passage, then, Philostratus 
closely associates the Magi with the magic art, and I am not 
sure whether the last "Magi" should not be "magicians." 
On the other hand his acquittal of Democritus and Pythag- 
oras from the charge of magic does not agree with Pliny, 
who ascribed a large amount of magic to them both. 

Apollonius himself evidently did not regard the Magi 
whom he met in Babylon and Susa as evil magicians. One 
of the chief aims of his scheme of oriental travel "was to 
acquaint himself thoroughly with their lore." He wished to 
discover whether they were wise in divine things, as they 
were said to be.^ Sacrifices and religious rites were per- 
formed under their supervision.^ Apollonius did not permit 
Damis to accompany him when he visited the Magi at noon 
and again about midnight and conversed with them.^ But 
Apollonius himself said that he learned some things from 
them and taught them some things ; he told Damis that they 
were "wise men, but not in all respects" ; on leaving their 
country he asked the king to give the presents which the 
monarch had intended for Apollonius himself to the Magi, 
whom he described then as "men who both are wise and 
wholly devoted to you." * 

Quite different is the attitude towards witchcraft an*! 
wizards of both Apollonius and his biographer. In the opin- 
ion of Philostratus wizards are of all men most wretched.^ 
They try to violate nature and to overcome fate by such 
methods as inquisition of spirits, barbaric sacrifices, incan- 
tations and besmearings. Simple-minded folk attribute 
great powers to them ; and athletes desirous of winning vic- 
tories, shopkeepers intent upon success in business ventures, 
and lovers in especial are continually resorting to them and 
apparently never lose faith in them despite repeated failures, 
despite occasional exposure or ridicule of their methods in 

* I, 32. 
*I. 26. 

* I, 40. 
»V, 12. 


books and writing, and despite the condemnation of witch- 
craft both by law and nature.^ Apollonius was certainly 
no wizard, argues Philostratus, for he never opposed the 
Fates but only predicted what they would bring to pass, and 
he acquired this foreknowledge not by sorcery but by divine 

Nevertheless Apollonius is frequently accused of being Apollonius 
a wizard by others in the pages of Philostratus. At Athens ^i2ar(js 
he was refused initiation into the mysteries on this ground,^ 
and at Lebadea the priests wished to exclude him from the 
oracular cave of Trophonius for the same reason.^ When 
the dogs guarding the temple of Dictynna in Crete fawned 
upon him instead of barking at his approach, the guardians 
of the shrine arrested him as a wizard and would-be temple 
robber who had bewitched the dogs by something that he 
had given them to eat.^ Apollonius also had to defend him- 
self against the accusation of witchcraft in his hearing or 
trial before Domitian.^ He then denied that one is a wizard 
merely because one has prescience, or that wearing linen gar- 
ments proves one a sorcerer. Wizards shun the shrines and 
temples of the gods ; they make use of trenches dug in the 
earth and invoke the gods of the lower world. They are 
greedy for gain and pseudo-philosophers. They possess no 
true science, depending for success in their art upon the 
stupidity of their dupes and devotees. They imagine what 
does not exist and disbelieve the truth. They work their 
sorcery by night and in darkness when those employing them 
cannot see or hear well. Apollonius himself was accused 
to Domitian of having sacrificed an Arcadian boy at night 
and consulted his entrails with Nerva in order to determine 
the latter's prospects of becoming emperor."^ When before 
his trial Domitian was about to put Apollonius in fetters, 
the sage proposed the dilemma that if he were a wizard he 
could not be kept in bonds, or that if Domitian were able 

'VII, 39. "VIII, 30. 

Tv/'i8. 'VIII, 7. 

*VIII, 19. "VII, 20. 



and old- 


to fetter him, he was obviously no wizard.^ This need 
not imply, however, that Apollonius believed that wizards 
really could free themselves, for he was at times ironical. If 
so, Domitian replied in kind by assuring him that he would 
at least keep him in fetters until he transformed himself into 
water or a wild beast or a tree. 

Closely akin to the goetes or wizards are the old hags and 
quack-doctors who offer one Indian spices or boxes sup- 
posed to contain bits of stone taken from the moon, stars, 
or depths of earth.^ Likewise the divining old-wives who 
go about with sieves in their hands and pretend by means 
of their divination to heal sick animals for shepherds and 
cowherds.^ We also read that Apollonius expelled from 
the cities along the Hellespont various Egyptians and 
Chaldeans who were collecting money on the pretense of 
offering sacrifices to avert the earthquakes which were then 

We have heard Philostratus mention the Brahmans of 
India in the same breath with the Magi of Persia and imply 
that Apollonius's association with them contributed to his 
reputation as a magician.^ In another passage ^ Philostratus 
places goetes and Brahmans in unfortunate juxtaposition, 
and, immediately after condemning the wizards and defend- 
ing Apollonius from the charge of sorcery, goes on to say 
that when he saw the automatic tripods and cup-bearers of 
the Indians, he did not ask how they were operated. "He 
applauded them, it is true, but did not think fit to imitate 
them." But of course Apollonius should not even have ap- 
plauded these automatons, which set food and poured wine 
before the guests of the Brahmans, if they were the con- 
trivances of wizards. And in another passage,'^ where he 
defends the signs and wonders wrought by the Brahmans 
against the aspersions cast upon them by the Gymnosophists 
of Ethiopia, Apollonius explains their practice of levitation 

'VII, 34. 
'VII, 39. 
"VI, II ; III, 43. 
'VI, 41. 

'I, 2. 

'V, 12. 

VI, II. 


as an act of worship and communion with the sun god, and 
hence far removed from the rites performed in deep trenches 
and hollows of the earth to the gods of the lower world 
which we have heard him mention before as a practice char- 
acteristic of wizards. 

Nevertheless the feats ascribed to the Brahmans are cer- Marvels 
tainly sufficiently akin to magic to excuse Philostratus for Brahmans. 
mentioning them along with the Magi and wizards and to 
justify us in considering them. Indeed, modern scholarship 
informs us that in the Vedic texts the word "brahman" in 
the neuter means a "charm, rite, formulary, prayer," and 
"that the caste of the Brahmans is nothing but the men who 
have hrdhman or magic power. ^ In marked contrast to the 
taciturnity of Apollonius as to his interviews with the Magi 
of Babylon and Susa is the long account repeated by Phi- 
lostratus from Damis of the sayings and doings of the sages 
of India. As for Apollonius himself, "he was always re- 
counting to everyone what the Indians said and did." ^ 
They knew that he was approaching when he was yet afar 
off and sent a messenger who greeted him by name.^ lar- 
chas, their chief, also knew that Apollonius had a letter for 
him and that a delta was missing in it, and he told Apol- 
lonius many events of his past life. "We see, O Apollo- 
nius," he said, "the signs of the soul, tracing them by a 
myriad symbols." ^ The Brahmans lived in a castle con- 
cealed by clouds, where they rendered themselves invisible 
at will. The rocks along the path up to their abode were 
still marked by the cloven feet, beards, faces, and backs of 
the Pans who had tried to scale the height under the lead- 
ership of Dionysus and Heracles, but had been hurled down 
headlong.^ Here too was a well for testing oaths, a purify- 

*J. E. Harrison, Themis, Cam- from the sacrificial lore of the 

bridge, 1912, p. 72. "The Buddha Vedas : "E. B. Havell, A Hand- 

himself condemned as worthless book of Indian Art, 1920, p. 6, and 

the whole system of Vedic sacri- see p. 32 for the birth of Buddha 

fices, including in his ban astrol- under the sign Taurus, 

ogy, divination, spells, omens, and ^VI, 10. 

witchcraft; but in the earliest 'III, 12. 

Buddhist stupas known to us, the *III, 16. 

symbolism is entirely borrowed " III, 13. 



ing fire, and the jars in which the winds and rain were bot- 
tled up. 
Magical When the messenger of the Brahmans greeted Apollonius 

of^\he^^ by name, the latter remarked to the astounded Damis, "We 
Brahmans. have Come to men who are wise without art (drexvccs), for 
they seem to have the gift of foreknowledge." ^ As a mat- 
ter of fact, however, most of the subsequent wonders 
wrought by the Brahmans were not performed without the 
use of paraphernalia and rites very similar to those of magic. 
Each Brahman carries a staff — or magic wand — and wears 
a ring, which are both prized for their occult virtue by which 
the Brahmans can accomplish anything they wish.^ They 
clothe themselves in sacred garments made of "a. wool that 
springs wild from the ground" (cotton?) and which the 
earth will not permit anyone else to pluck. larchas also 
showed Apollonius and Damis a marvelous stone called Pan- 
tarhe, which attracted and bound other stones to itself and 
which, although only the size of his finger-nail and formed 
in earth four fathoms deep, had such virtue that it broke 
the earth open.^ But it required great skill to secure this 
gem. "We only," said the Brahman, "can obtain this pan- 
tarhe, partly by doing things and partly by saying things," 
in other words by incantations and magical operations. Be- 
fore performing their rite of levitation tTiey bathed and 
anointed themselves with a certain drug. "Then they stood 
like a chorus with larchas as leader and with their rods up- 
lifted struck the earth, which heaving like the sea-wave 
raised them up in the air two cubits high." * The metallic 
tripods and cup-bearers which served the king of the coun- 
try when he came to visit the Brahmans appeared from no- 
where laden with food and wine exactly as if by magic.^ 

The medical practice, if we may so call it, of the Brah- 
mans was tinged, to say the least, with magic. A dislocated 
hip, indeed, they appear to have cured by massage, and a 

* III, 12. Rut perhaps the trans- 
lation should be, "men who are ex- 
ceedingly wise." 

'HI, IS. 

=■111, 46-47. 
*III, 17. 
Mil, 27. 


blind man and a paralytic are healed by unspecified methods.^ 
But a boy is cured of inherited alcoholism by chewing owl's 
eggs that have been boiled; a woman who complains that 
her sixteen-year-old son has for two years been vexed by 
a demon is sent away with a letter full of threats or incan- 
tations to employ against the spirit; and another woman's 
sufferings in childbirth are prevented by directing her hus- 
band to enter her chamber with a live hare concealed in his 
bosom and to release the hare after he has walked around 
his wife once. larchas, indeed, attributed the origin of 
medicine to divination or divine revelation.^ His theory 
was that Asclepius, as the son of Apollo, learned by oracles 
what drugs to employ for the different diseases, in what 
amounts to mix the drugs, what the antidotes for poisons 
were, and how to use even poisons as remedies. This last 
especially he affirmed that no one would dare attempt with- 
out foreknowledge. 

The Brahmans seem to have made some use of astrology Some 
in working their feats of magic. Damis at any rate said that astrology 
when Apollonius bade farewell to the sages, larchas made 
him a present of seven rings named after the planets, which 
he wore in turn upon the appropriate days of the week.^ 
Perhaps, too, the seven swords of adamant which larchas 
had rediscovered as a child had some connection with the 
planets.^ Moeragenes ascribed four books on foretelling the .^t^ 

future by the stars to Apollonius himself, but Philostratus v/sf 

was unable to find any such work by Apollonius extant in .;.^ 

his day.^ And unless it be an allusion to Chaldeans which ' 

we have already noted, there is no further mention of as- 
trology in Philostratus's Life — a rather remarkable fact con- 
sidering that he wrote for the court of Septimius Severus, 
the builder of the Septizonium. 

The philosopher Euphrates, who is represented by Philos- Interest 

tratus as jealous of Apollonius, once advised the emperor science 

Vespasian, when Apollonius was present, to embrace natural 

^III, 38-40. "Ill, 21. 

Mil, 44. 

'Ill, 41. mi, 41. 


philosophy — or a philosophy in accordance with natural law 
— but to beware of philosophers who pretended to have 
secret intercourse with the gods.^ There was justification 
in the latter charge against Apollonius, but it should not be 
assumed that his mysticism rendered him unfavorable to 
natural science. On the contrary he is frequently represented 
by Philostratus as whiling away the time along the road by 
discussing with Damis such natural problems as the delta of 
the Nile or the tides at the mouth of the Guadalquivir. He 
was especially interested in the habits of animals and the 
properties of gems. Vespasian was fond of listening to 
"his graphic stories of the rivers of India and the animals" 
of that country, as well as to "his statements of what the 
gods revealed concerning the empire." ^ Some of the ques- 
tions which Apollonius put to the Brahmans concerned na- 
ture.^ He asked of what the world was composed, and when 
they said, "Of elements," he asked if there were four. They 
believed, however, in a fifth element, ether, from which the 
gods had been generated and which they breathe as men 
breathe air. They also regarded the universe as a living 
animal. He further inquired of them whether land or sea 
predominated on the earth's surface,* and this same attitude 
of scientific inquiry and of curiosity about natural forces 
and objects is frequently met in the Life. 

Apollonius believed, as we shall see, in omens and por- 
tents, and interpreted an earthquake at Antioch as a divine 
warning to the inhabitants.^ The Brahman sages, moreover, 
regarded prolonged drought as a punishment visited by the 
world soul upon human sinfulness.^ On the other hand, 
Apollonius gave a natural explanation of volcanoes and de- 
nied the myths concerning Enceladus being imprisoned un- 
der Mount Aetna and the battle of the gods and giants.'^ 
And in the case of the earthquake the people had already 
accepted it as a portent and were praying in terror, when 

'V, 37- 'VI, 38. 

'V, 2,7. eTTT ,. 

•Ill, 34. ' ^^' 

Mil, 7,7. ^V. 17. 


Apollonius took the opportunity to warn them to cease from 
their civil factions. As a matter of fact, both Apollonius 
and Philostratus appear to regard portents as an extraordi- 
nary sort of natural phenomena. A knowledge of natural 
science helps in recognizing them and in interpreting them. 
When a lioness of enormous size with eight whelps in her is 
slain by hunters, Apollonius at once recognizes the event as 
portentous because as a rule lionesses have whelps only 
thrice and only three of them on the first occasion, two in 
the second litter, and finally but a single whelp, "but I be- 
lieve a very big one and preternaturally fierce." ^ Here 
Apollonius is not in strict agreement with Pliny and Aris- 
totle ^ who say that the lioness produces five whelps at the 
first birth and one less every succeeding year. 

The scepticism of Apollonius concerning the Aetna Cases of 
myth is not an isolated instance. At Sardis he ridiculed the scepticism 
notion that trees could be older than earth,^ and he was one 
of the few ancients to question the swan's song.* He de- 
nied "the silly story that the young of vipers are brought into 
the world without mothers" as "consistent neither with na- 
ture nor experience," ^ and also the tale that the whelps of 
the lioness claw their way out into the world.® In India 
Apollonius saw a wild ass or unicorn from whose single 
horn a magic drinking horn was made.' A draught from 
this horn was supposed to protect one for that day from dis- 
ease, wounds, fire, or poison, and on that account the king 

*I, 22. sonitum rauci per stagna loquacia 

' NH, VIII, 17; Hist. Anim., cygni. This concrete explanation 

VI, 31. is quite inadequate; it is beyond 

^VI, 37. a doubt that the swan's song (Hke 

*The ancient authorities, pro the halcyon's) veiled, and still 

and con, will be found listed in hides, some mystical allusion." 

D. W. Thompson, Glossary of * II, 14. 

Greek Birds, 106-107. He adds: "I, 22. Pliny, NH, VIII, 17, 

"Modern naturalists accept the repeats a slightly different popular 

story of the singing swans, assert- notion that the lioness tears her 

ing that though the common swan womb with her claws and so can 

cannot sing, yet the Whooper or bear but once ; against this view 

whistling swan does so. It is cer- he cites Aristotle's statement that 

tain that the Whooper sings, for the lioness bears five times, as 

many ornithologists state the fact, described above, 
but I do not think that it can sing ' III, 2. 

very well ; at the very best, dant 

of animals. 


alone was permitted to hunt the animal and to drink from 
the horn. When Damis asked Apollonius if he credited this 
story, the sage ironically replied that he would believe it 
if he found the king of the country to be immortal. 
Either, however, the scepticism of Apollonius, as was the 
case with so many other ancients and medieval men, was 
sporadic and inconsistent, or it came to be overlaid with the 
credulity of Damis and Philostratus, as the following ex- 
ample suggests. larchas told Damis and Apollonius flatly 
that the races described by Scylax of men with long heads 
or huge feet with which they were said to shade themselves 
did not exist in India or anywhere else; yet in a later book 
Philostratus states that the shadow- footed people are a 
tribe in Ethiopia.^ 
Anecdotes At any rate the marvels of India are more frequently 

credited than criticized in the Life by Philostratus, and the 
same holds true of the extraordinary conduct and well-nigh 
human intelligence attributed to animals. Especially delight- 
ful reading are six chapters on the remarkable sagacity of 
elephants and their love for mankind.^ On this point, as by 
Pliny, use is made of the work of Juba. We read again of 
sick lions eating apes, of the lioness's love affair with the 
panther, of the fondness of leopards for the fragrant gum 
of a certain tree and of goats for the cinnamon tree ; of apes 
who are made to collect pepper for men by appealing to their 
instinct towards mimicry ; ^ and of the tiger, whose loins 
alone are eaten by the Indians. "For they decline to eat the 
other parts of this animal, because they say that as soon as 
it is born it lifts up its front paws to the rising sun." * In 
the river Hyphasis is a creature like a white worm which 
yields when melted down a fat or oil that once set afire can- 
not be extinguished and which the king uses to burn walls 

'III, 47; VI, 25. Scylax was a sius, Periplus Scylacis Caryan- 

Persian admiral under Darius densis, 1639), but some date it as 

who traveled to India and wrote early as the fourth century B.C. 

an account of his voyages. The ^11, 11-16. 

work extant under his name is of * II, 2; III, 4. 

doubtful authorship (Isaac Vos- * II, 28. 


and capture cities.^ In India are griffins who quarry gold 
with their powerful beaks, and the luminous phoenix with its 
nest of spices and swan-like funeral song.^ 

Especially remarkable are the snakes or dragons with Dragons 
which all India is filled and which often are of enormous ° " *^ 
size, thirty or even seventy cubits long.^ Those found in 
the marshes are sluggish and have no crests ; but those on 
the hills and ridges move faster than the swiftest rivers and 
have both beards and crests.* Those in the plain engage in 
combats with elephants which terminate fatally for both 
parties as we have already learned from Pliny.^ The moun- 
tain dragons have bushy beards, fiery crests, golden scales, 
and a ferocious glance.® They burrow into the earth, mak- 
ing a noise like clashing brass, or go hissing down to the 
shore and swim far out to sea. Terrifying as they are, the 
Indians charm them by showing them golden characters em- 
broidered on a cloak of scarlet and by incantations of a se- 
cret wisdom. They eat the dragon's heart and liver in order 
to be able to understand the language and thoughts of ani- 
mals. ''^ 

The dragons, however, are prized more for the precious Occult 

stones in their heads, which the Indians quickly cut off as virtues of 

. ^ , ■' gems, 

soon as they have bewitched them. The pupils of the eyes ,,, 

of the hill dragons are a fiery stone possessing irresistible 
virtue for many occult purposes,^ while in the heads of the 
mountain dragons are many brilliant stones of flashing 
colors which exert occult virtue if set in a ring, "and they 
say that Gyges had such a ring." ^ But there are many mar- 
velous stones outside the heads of dragons. "Who does not 
know the habits of birds," says Apollonius to Damis in one 
of his disquisitions upon natural phenomena,^" "and that 
eagles and storks will not build their nests without placing in 
them, the one the stone aetites, and the other the lychnites. 

"■III, I. Greek fire? 

"Ill, a 

*III, 48-9. 

'III, 9. 

mi, 6; II, 17. 

*in, 7. 

Mil, 7. 

'Ill, 8. 

= NH, VIII, II. 

"11, 14. 


as aids in hatching and to drive snakes away?'' On parting 
from the Indian king Phraotes, Apollonius as usual refused 
to accept money presents but picked up one of the gems that 
were offered him with the exclamation, "O rare stone, how 
opportunely and providentially have I found you !" ^ Phi- 
lostratus supposes that he detected some occult and divine 
power in this particular stone. The Brahmans had gems 
so huge that from one of them a goblet could be carved large 
enough to slake the thirst of four men in midsummer, but 
in this case nothing is said of occult virtue.^ The Brahman 
larchas felt sure that he was the reincarnation of the hero 
Ganges, son of the river Ganges, because as a mere child he 
knew where to dig for the seven swords of adamant which 
Ganges had fixed in the earth. ^ Presumably these were 
magic swords and their virtue in part due to the stone ada- 
mant of which they were made. Less is said in the Life of the 
virtues of herbs than of gems, but the Indians made a nup- 
tial ointment or love-charm from balm distilled from trees,^ 
and drugs and poisons are mentioned more than once, man- 
dragora being described as a soporific drug rather than a 
deadly poison.^ 
Absence Considering that Apollonius was a Pythagorean, there is 

of number surprisingly little said concerning perfect numbers and their 
mystic significance. Aside from the seven rings and seven 
swords already mentioned, about the only instance is the 
question asked by Apollonius whether eighteen, the number 
of the Brahman sages at the time of his visit, had any espe- 
cial importance.^ He remarked that eighteen was not a 
square, nor a number usually held in esteem and honor like 
ten, twelve, and sixteen. The Brahmans agreed that there 
was no particular significance in eighteen, and further in- 
formed him that they maintained no fixed number of mem- 
bers but had varied from only one to as many as seventy 
according to the available supply of worthy men, 

^11, 40. 'in, I. 

"111,27. » VIII, 7. 

'111,21. "111,30. 


If Philostratus denies that Apollonius was a magician, Mantike 
he does depict him as endowed with prophetic gifts, with art*of 
power over demons, and with "secret wisdom." He rather divination, 
likes to give the impression that the sage foretold things 
by innate prophetic gift or divine inspiration, but even 
navTLKT] or the art of divination is not condemned as yorjTela 
or witchcraft was. larchas the Brahman says that those who 
delight in mantike become divine thereby and contribute to 
the safety of mankind.^ Apollonius himself, when condemn- 
ing wizards as pseudo-wise, made the reservation that man- 
tike, if true in its predictions, was not a pseudo-science, al- 
though he professed ignorance whether it could be called an 
art or not.^ He denied that he practiced it, when he was ex- 
amined by Tigellinus, the favorite of Nero, who was perse- 
cuting philosophers on the ground that they were addicted 
to mantike.^ His accusers before Domitian again adduced 
his alleged practice of divination as evidence that he was a 

If Apollonius practiced neither wizardry nor mantike. Divining 
the question arises how he was able to foretell the future, of^pol- 
In his trial before Domitian he did not attempt to deny that lon»us. 
he had predicted the plague at Ephesus, but attributed his 
"sense of the coming disaster" to his abstemious diet, which 
kept his senses clear and enabled him to see as in an un- 
clouded mirror "all that is happening or about to occur." ^ 
For he was credited with knowledge of distant events the 
moment they occurred as well as with foreknowledge of the 
future. Thus at Ephesus he was aware of the assassination 
of Domitian at Rome ; and at Tarsus, although he arrived af- 
ter the incident had occurred, he was able to describe and to 
find the mad dog by whom a boy had been bitten.^ larchas 
told Apollonius that health and purity were requisite for 

* III, 42. porary of Philostratus, also states 

"VIII, 7. that Apollonius announced the 

' IV, 44. assassination of Domitian and 

*VIII, 7. even named the assassin in Ephe- 

'VIII, 7. sus on the very day that the event 

*_VIII, 26; VI, 43. The his- occurred at Rome. His account 

torian, Dio Cassius, a contem- differs too much from that by 




tion of 

divination; ^ and Apollonius in turn, in recounting his life 
story to the naked sages of Egypt, represented the Pythago- 
rean philosophy as appearing before him and promising, 
"And when you are pure, I will grant you the faculty of 
foreknowledge." ^ 

Apollonius often was warned by dreams. When he 
dreamt of fish who were cast gasping upon dry land and 
who appealed for succour to a dolphin swimming by, he 
knew that he ought to visit and restore the graves and assist 
the descendants of the Eretrians whom Darius had taken 
captive to the Persian kingdom over five centuries before.^ 
Another dream he interpreted as a command to visit Crete.* 
In defending his linen apparel before Domitian he declared, 
"It is a pure substance under which to sleep at night, for to 
those who live as I do dreams bring the truest of their reve- 
lations." ^ He was not the only dreamer of the time, how- 
ever, and when some of his followers were afraid to accom- 
pany him to Rome in Nero's reign, they made warning 
dreams their excuse for deserting him.^ 

It has been seen that Apollonius not only had prophetic 
dreams but was skilful in interpreting them. He was equally 
adept in explaining the meaning of omens. The dead lion 
with her eight unborn whelps he took as a sign that Damis 
and he would remain a year and eight months in that land.' 
When Damis objected that Homer interpreted the sparrow 
and her eight nestlings whom the snake devoured as nine 
years' duration of the Trojan war, Apollonius retorted that 
the birds had been hatched but that the whelps, being yet 
unborn, could not signify complete years. On another occa- 
sion he interpreted the birth of a three-headed child as a 
sign of the year of the three emperors.^ 

Philostratus to have been copied 'VI, ii. 

from it. He concludes it with * I, 23. 

the positive assertion, "This is * IV, 34. 

really what took place, though 'VIII, 7. 

there should be ten thousand " IV, 37. 

doubters." (LXVII, 18.) 'I, 22. 

'Ill, 42. "V, 13. 


Such interpretation of dreams and omens suggests an Animals 


art or arts of divination rather than foreknowledge by di- ^^^mc 

rect divine inspiration. So does the passage in which Apol- 
lonius informs Domitian, when accused before him of having 
divined the future by sacrificing a boy, that human entrails 
are inferior to those of animals for purposes of divination, 
since the beasts are less perturbed by knowledge of their 
approaching death. ^ Apollonius himself would not sacrifice 
even animal victims, but he enlarged his powers of divina- 
tion during his sojourn among the Arab tribes by learning 
to understand the language of animals and to listen to the 
birds as these predict the future.^ The Arabs acquire this 
power by eating, some say the heart, others the liver, of 
dragons, — a fact which gave the church historian Eusebius 
an opportunity to charge Apollonius with having broken his 
taboo of animal flesh. 

Although he did not sacrifice animals and divine from Divination 
their entrails, Apollonius appears to have employed prac- ^ 
tices akin to those of the art of pyromancy when he threw a 
handful of frankincense into the sacrificial fire with a 
prayer to the sun, "and watched to see how the smoke of it 
curled upwards, and how it grew turbid, and in how many 
points it shot up; and in a manner he caught the meaning 
of the fire, and observed how it appeared of good omen and 
pure." ^ Again he visited an Egyptian temple and sacrificed 
an image of a bull made of frankincense and told the priest 
that if he really understood the science of divination by fire 
(kfiirvpov ao(j)ias), he would see many things revealed in the 
circle of the rising sun.'* 

It should be added that only a very ardent admirer of Other 
Apollonius or an equally ardent seeker after prophecies so-called 
would see anything prophetic in some of the apparently tions. 
chance remarks of the sage which have been perverted into 
predictions. At Ephesus he did not actually predict the 
plague, which had already begun to spread judging from the 

'VIII, 7. "I, 31. 

'I, 20. "V, 25. 


account of Philostratus, but rather warned the heedless pop- 
ulation to take measures to prevent its becoming general.^ 
When visiting the isthmus of Corinth he began to say that 
it w^ould be cut through, an idea which had doubtless oc- 
curred again and again to many ; but then said that it would 
not be cut through.^ This sane, if somewhat vacillating, 
state of mind received confirmation soon afterwards when 
Nero attempted an Isthmian canal but left it uncompleted. 
Another similarly ambiguous utterance was elicited from 
Apollonius by an eclipse of the sun accompanied by thunder : 
"There shall be some great event and there shall not be." ^ 
This was believed to receive miraculous fulfillment three 
days later when a thunderbolt dashed the cup out of which 
Nero was drinking from his hands but left him unharmed. 
Once Apollonius saved his life by changing from a ship 
which sank soon afterwards to another vessel.* An instance 
of more specific prophecy is the case of the consul Aelian, 
who testified that when he was but a tribune under Vespa- 
sian, Apollonius took him aside and told him his name and 
country and parentage, "and you foretold to me that I 
should hold this high office which is accounted by the multi- 
tude the highest of all." ^ But Aelian may have exagger- 
ated the accuracy of Apollonius's prediction, or the latter 
may have made a shrewd guess that Aelian was likely to 
rise to high office. 
Apollonius The divining faculty of Apollonius enabled him to de- 
and the ^^^^ ^^le presence and influence of demons, phantoms, and 
goblins, whose ways he understood as well as the language 
of the birds. At Ephesus he detected the true cause of the 
plague in a ragged old beggar whom he ordered the people 
to stone to death. ^ At this command the blinking eyes of 
the aged mendicant suddenly shot forth malevolent and fiery 
gleams and revealed his demon character. Afterwards, when 
the people removed the stones, they found underneath, 
pounded to a pulp, an enormous hound still vomiting foam 

'IV, 4. "V, 18. 

MV, 24. 'VII, 18. 

'IV, 43. 'IV, 10. 


as mad dogs do. Later, when accused of magic before 
Domitian, Apollonius requested that the emperor question 
him in private about the causes of this pestilence at Ephesus, 
which he said were too deep to be discussed pubHcly.^ And 
earher in the reign of Nero, when asked by TigelHnus how 
he got the better of demons and phantasms, he evaded the 
question by a saucy retort.^ On one. occasion, however, we 
are told that he got rid of a ghostly apparition by heaping 
abuse upon it ; ^ and a satyr, who remained invisible but cre- 
ated annoyance by running amuck through the camp, he dis- 
posed of by the expedient of filling a trough with wine and 
letting the spirit get drunk on it. When the wine had all dis- 
appeared, Apollonius led his companions to the cave of the 
nymphs where the satyr was now visible in a drunken sleep.* 
He also reformed the character of a licentious youth by ex- 
pelling a demon from him,^ and at Corinth exposed a lamia 
who, under the disguise of a dainty and wealthy lady, was 
fattening up a beautiful youth named Menippus with the 
intention of eventually devouring his blood.^ On his return 
by sea from India Apollonius passed a sacred island where 
lived a sea nymph or female demon who was as destructive 
to mariners as Scylla or the Sirens were of old. 

But the word "demon" is not always employed by Phi- Not all 
lostratus in the sense of an evil spirit. The annunciation ot ^re evil 
the birth of Apollonius was made to his mother by Proteus 
in the form of an Egyptian demon."^ Damis looked upon 
Apollonius himself as a demon and worshiped him as such, 
when he heard him say that he comprehended not only all 
human languages but also those things concerning which 
men maintain silence.^ In a letter to Euphrates ^ Apollonius 
affirms that the all-wise Pythagoras should be classed among 
demons. But when Domitian, on first meeting Apollonius 

*VIII, 7. "IV, 25. 

•n, 4. ^' 4- 

* VI, 27. * I, 19- 

"IV, 20. "Epist. 50. 




faith in 


ghost of 

the sick 
and rais- 
ing the 

said that he looked like a demon, the sage replied that the 
emperor was confusing demons and human beings.-^ 

Philostratus adds his own bit of personal testimony to 
the existence of demons, although it cannot be said to be 
very convincing. After telling the satyr story he warns his 
readers not to be incredulous as to the existence of satyrs or 
to doubt that they make love. For they should not mistrust 
what is supported by experience and by Philostratus's own 
word. For he knew in Lemnos a youth of his own age 
whose mother was said to be visited by a satyr, and such he 
probably was, since he wore a fawn skin tied around his 
neck by the two front paws.^ 

Apollonius had an interview with the ghost of Achilles 
which strongly suggests necromancy. He sent his compan- 
ions on board ship and passed the night alone at the hero's 
tomb. Nor did he allude to what had happened until ques- 
tioned by the curious Damis. He then averred that his 
method of invoking the dead had not been that of Odysseus, 
but that he had prayed to Achilles much as the Indians do 
to their heroes. A slight earthquake then occurred and 
Achilles appeared. At first he was five cubits tall but grad- 
ually increased to some twelve cubits in height. At cock- 
crow he vanished in a flash of summer lightning.^ 

Apollonius, as well as the Brahmans, wrought some 
cures. One was of a boy who had been bitten by a mad dog 
and consequently "behaved exactly like a dog, for he 
barked and howled and went on all fours." * Apollonius 
first found and quieted the dog, and then made it lick the 
wound, a homeopathic treatment which cured the boy. It 
now only remained to cure the dog, too, and this the philoso- 
pher effected by praying to the river which was near by and 
then making the dog swim across it. "For," concludes Phi- 
lostratus, "a drink of water will cure a mad dog if he only 
can be induced to take it." The modern reader will suspect 
that the dog was not mad to begin with and that Apollonius 

'VII, 32. 
"VI, 27. 

MV, II, 1S-16. 
*VI, 43. 


cleverly cured the boy's complaint by the same force that 
had induced it — suggestion. Apollonius once revived a 
maiden who was being borne to the grave by touching her 
and saying something to her, but Philostratus honestly ad- 
mits that he is not sure whether he restored her to life or 
detected signs of life in the body which had escaped the 
notice of everyone else.^ 

When Apollonius was brought before Tigellinus, the Other 
scroll on which the charges against him had been written was ^^^"^^ ^' 
found to have become quite blank when Tigellinus unrolled 
it.^ Upon that occasion and again before Domitian he in- 
timated that his body could not be bound or slain against 
his will.^ The former contention he proved to the satisfac- 
tion of Damis, who visited him in prison, by suddenly re- 
moving his leg from the fetters and then inserting it again.* 
Damis regarded this exhibition as a divine miracle, since 
Apollonius performed it without magical ceremony or in- 
cantations. He is also represented as escaping from his 
bonds at about midnight when imprisoned later in life in 
Crete.^ Philostratus, too, implies that he vanished miracu- 
lously from the courtroom of Domitian and that he some- 
times passed from one place to another in an incredibly 
short time, and is somewhat doubtful whether he ever died. 
But we have seen that even on the testimony of Damis and 
Philostratus themselves many of the marvels and predic- 
tions of Apollonius were not "artless" but involved a knowl- 
edge of contemporary natural science and medicine, or of 
arts of divination, or the employment, in a way not unlike 
the procedure of magic, of forces and materials outside him- 
self, namely, the occult virtues of things in nature or incan- 
tations, rites, and ceremonies. 

So much for Apollonius and his magic, but the Life con- Golden 

tains some interesting allusions to the 1^7^ or wryneck, ^"(["the 

which throw light upon the use of that bird in Greek magic, »"»•«■• 

but which have seldom been noted and then not correctly 

* IV. 45. * VII, 38. 

' IV, 44- • VIII, 30. 

•VIII, 8. 


interpreted.-^ The wryneck was so much employed in Greek 
magic, as references to it from Pindar to Theocritus show, 
that the word iunx was sometimes used as a synonym or 
figurative expression for spells or charms in general. Phi- 
lostratus, too, employs it in this sense, representing the Gym- 
nosophists as accusing the Brahmans of "appealing to the 
crowd with varied enchantments (or iunges)."^ But in 
other passages he makes it clear that the wryneck is still em- 
ployed as a magic bird. Describing the royal palace at 
Babylon ^ he states that the Magi have hung four golden 
wrynecks, which they themselves attune and which they call 
the tongues of the gods, from the ceiling of the judgment 
hall to remind the king of divine judgment and not to set 
himself above mankind. Golden wrynecks were also sus- 
pended in the Pythian temple at Delphi, and in this connec- 
tion they are said to possess some of the virtue of the Sirens,^ 
or, as Mr. Cook translates it, "to echo the persuasive note of 
siren voices." These two passages seem to point clearly to 
the employment of mechanical metal birds which sang and 
moved as if by magic. The Greek mathematician Hero in 
his explanation of mechanical devices employed in temples 
tells how to make a bird turn itself about and whistle by 
turning a wheel. ^ 
Why Now this is precisely what the wryneck does in its "won- 

named derful way of writhing its head and neck" and emitting hiss- 
ing sounds. The bird's "unmistakable note" is "que, que, 

* The passages are not listed in birds. But the iunx is found as a 

Liddell and Scott, nor mentioned bird on several Greek vases of 

by Professor Bury in his note on the latest period ; see British 

"The tvy^ in Greek Magic," Museum Catalogue of Vases, vol. 

Journal of Hellenic Studies IV, figs. 94, 98, 342, 163, 331b; 

(1886), pp. 157-60. Hubert's magic wheels are also represented 

article on "Magia" in Daremberg- on the vases, but are not described 

Saglio cites only one passage and as iunges in the catalogue ; see 

seems to regard the iunx solely vol. IV, figs. 33 la, 272>, 385, 399f 

as a magic wheel. D'Arcy W. 409, 436, 450, 458, and vol. Ill, 

Thompson, A Glossary of Greek E 774, F 223, F 279. 

Birds, Oxford, 1895, also cites but ^ VI, 10; see also VIII, 7. 

one passage from Philostratus. ^ I, 25. 

A. B. Cook, Zeus, Cambridge, *VI, 11. 

1914, I, 253-65, notes both main " Cited by Cook, Zeus, I, 266, 

passages but tries to interpret the who, however, fails to connect it 

iunges as solar wheels rather than with the iunx. 



que, repeated many times in succession, at first rapidly, but 
gradually slowing and in a continually falling key." ^ I 
would therefore suggest that as the English name for the 
bird is derived from its writhing its neck, so the Greek name 
comes from its cry, for "que" and the root 1^7, if repeated 
rapidly many times in succession, sound much alike. ^ 

The name, Apollonius, continued to be associated with ApoIIonius 
magic in the middle ages, when the Golden Flozvers of middle 
Apollonius, a work on the notory art or theurgy,^ is found ^ses. 
in the manuscripts. And we shall find Cecco d'Ascoli * in 
the early fourteenth century citing a "book of magic art" by 
Apollonius and also a treatise on spirits, De angelica fac- 
tione. In 1412 Amplonius listed in the catalogue of his 
manuscripts a "book of Apollonius the magician or philoso- 
pher which is called Elizinus." ^ Works on the causes and 
properties of things are also ascribed to Apollonius in 
medieval manuscripts,^ and a Balenus or Belenus to whom 
works on astrological images and seals are ascribed in the 
manuscripts ^ is perhaps a corruption for Apollonius.^ 

^ Newton's Dictionary of Birds; Elizinus. 

a reference supplied me by the *BN 13951, 12th century, Liber 

kindness of my colleague, Pro- Apollonii de principalibus rerum 

fessor F. H. Herrick. causis. Vienna 3124, 15th century, 

' Professor Bury's theory that fols. 57v-s8v, "Verba de pro- 

"the bird was called Xvy^ from prietatibus rerum quomodo virtus 

its call which sounded like icb unius frangitur per aliuni. Ada- 

ico; and it was used in lunar mas nee ferro nee igne domatur 

enchantments because it was sup- .../... cito medetur." 

posed to be calling on lo, the ' Royal 12-C-XVIII, Baleni de 

moon": and that "Ivyi, originally imaginibus ; Sloane 3826, fols. 

meant a moon-song independently loov-ioi, Beleemus de imaginibus; 

of the wryneck," which came to Sloane 3848, fols. 52-8, Liber 

be employed in magic moon- Balamini sapientis de sigillis 

worship on account of its cry, has planetarum, fols. 59-62, liber sapi- 

already been refuted by Pro- entis Baleym de ymaginibus sep- 

fessor Thompson, who pointed tern planetarum. But these forms 

out that "the bird does not cry might suggest Balaam. We also 

lw„ i<ji, and the suggested deri- hear of Flacius Affricus, a disciple 

vation of its name and sanctity of Belenus. 

from such a cry cannot hold." * M. Steinschneider, "Apollonius 

'See Chapter 49 for a fuller von Thyana (oder Balinas) bei 

account of it. den Arabern," in Zeitschrift der 

* See Chapter 71. Deutschen M orgenl'dndischcn Ge- 

'Math. 54, Liber Appollonii j^//.yc/za/f, XLV (1891), 439-46. 
magi vel philosophi qui dicitur 



Authors to be considered — Their standpoint — De divinatione ; argu- 
ment of Quintus — Cicero attacks past authority— Divination distinct 
from natural science — Unreasonable in method — Requires violation^ of 
natural law — Cicero and astrology — His crude historical criticism — 
Favorinus against astrologers — Sextus Empiricus — Lucius, or The Ass: 
is it by Lucian? — Career of Lucian — Alexander the pseudo-prophet — 
Magical procedure in medicine satirized — Snake-charming — A Hyp^er- 
borean magician — Some ghost stories — Pancrates, the magician — 
Credulity and scepticism — Menippus, or Necromancy — Astrological in- 
terpretation of Greek myth — History and defense of astrology — Lucian 
not always sceptical — Lucian and medicine — Inevitable intermingling 
of scepticism and superstition — Lucian on writing history. 

Authors Having noted the large amount of magic that still existed 
sidered. ^oth in the leading works of natural science of the early 
Roman empire and in the more general literature of that 
period, it is only fair that we should note such extremes of 
scepticism towards the superstitions then current as can be 
found during the same period. They are, however, few 
and far between, and we shall have to go back to the close 
of the Republican period for the best instance in the De 
divinatione of Cicero. As Pliny's Ncttural History was 
mainly a compilation of earlier Greek science, so Cicero's 
arguments against divination were not entirely original with 
him. As his other philosophical writings are largely in- 
debted to the Greeks, so his attack upon divination is sup- 
posed to be under considerable obligations to Clitomachus 
and Panaetius,-^ philosophers of the New Academy and the 

* T. Schiche, De foniibus libra- Die Quellen von Ciceros swei 
rum Ciccronis qui sunt de divina- BHichern de Divinatione, Freiburg, 
Hone, Jena, 1875; K. Hartf elder, 1878. 



Stoic school who flourished respectively at Carthage and 
Athens and at Rhodes and Rome in the second century be- 
fore our era. We shall next briefly note the criticisms of 
astrologers and astrology made by Favorinus, a rhetorician 
from Gaul who resided at Rome under Hadrian and was a 
friend of Plutarch but whose argument against the astrolo- 
gers has been preserved only in the Attic Nights of Aulus 
Gellius/ and by Sextus Empiricus,^ a sceptical philosopher 
who wrote about 200. Finally we shall consider Lucian's 
satirical depiction of various superstitions of his time. 

It will be noticed that no one of these critics of magic, Their 
if we may so designate them, is primarily a natural scientist. 
Cicero and Lucian and Favorinus are primarily men of let- 
ters and rhetoricians. And all four of our critics write to 
a greater or less extent from the professed standpoint of a 
general sceptical attitude in all matters of philosophy and 
not merely in the matter of superstition. Thus the attack 
of Sextus Empiricus upon astrology occurs in a work which 
is directed against learning in general, and in which he assails 
grammarians, rhetoricians, geometricians, arithmeticians, 
students of music, logicians, physicists, and students of 
ethics, as well as the casters of horoscopes. Aulus Gellius 
did not know whether to take the arguments of Favorinus 
against the astrologers seriously or not. He says that he 
heard Favorinus make the speech the substance of which he 
repeats, but that he is unable to state whether the philosopher 
really meant what he said or argued merely in order to 
exercise and to display his genius. There was reason for 
this perplexity of Aulus Gellius, since Favorinus was in- 
clined to such tours de force as eulogies of Thersites or of 
Quartan Fever. 

De divinatione takes the form of a supposititious conver- De divina- 

sation, or better, informal debate, between the author and argument 

his brother Quintus. In the first book Ouintus, in a rather °^ Quin- 

. . . '^ . . . tus. 

rambling and leisurely fashion and with occasional repetition 

* Aulus Gellius, Nodes Atticae, 'Adv. astro!., in Opera, ed. 

XIV, I. Johannes Albertus Fabricius, 

Leipzig, 1718. 



of ideas, upholds divination to the best of his ability, citing* 
many reported instances of successful recourse to it in 
antiquity. In the second book Tully proceeds with a some- 
what patronizing air to pull entirely to pieces the arguments 
of his brother who assents with cheerful readiness to their 
demolition. On the whole the appeal to the past is the main 
point in the argument of Quintus. What race or state, he 
asks, has not believed in some form of divination? "For 
before the revelation of philosophy, which was discovered 
but recently, public opinion had no doubt of the truth of 
this art; and after philosophy emerged no philosopher of 
authority thought otherwise. I have mentioned Pytha- 
goras, Democritus, Socrates. I have left out no one of the 
ancients save Xenophanes. I have added the Old Academy, 
the Peripatetics, the Stoics. Epicurus alone dissented." ^ 
Quintus closes his long argument in favor of the truth 
of divination by solemnly asserting that he does not approve 
of sorcerers, nor of those who prophesy for the sake of 
gain, nor of the practice of questioning the spirits of the 
dead — which nevertheless, he says, was a custom of his 
brother's friend Appius." 

When Tully's turn to speak comes, he rudely disturbs his 
brother's reliance upon tradition. "I think it not the part of 
a philosopher to employ witnesses, who are only haply true 
and often purposely false and deceiving. He ought to 
show why a thing is so by arguments and reasons, not by 
events, especially those I cannot credit." ^ "Antiquity," 
Cicero declares later, "has erred in many respects." ** The 
existence of the art of divination in every age and nation 
has little effect upon him. There is nothing, he asserts, so 
widespread as ignorance.^ 
Divination "^^^^ brothers distinguish divination as a separate sub- 

distinct ject from the natural or even the applied sciences. Quintus 
rafscience! says that medical men, pilots, and farmers foresee many 
things, yet their arts are not divination. "Not even Phere- 

^ De dizinatione, I, 39. * Ibid., II, 2>2>- 

^Ibid., I, 58. ^Ibid.. II, 36. 

'Ibid., II, II. 



cydes, that famous Pythagorean master, who predicted an 
earthquake when he saw that the water had disappeared 
from a well which usually was well filled, should be re- 
garded as a diviner rather than a physicist." ^ Tully carries 
the distinction a step further and asserts that the sick seek 
a doctor, not a soothsayer; that diviners cannot instruct us 
in astronomy; that no one consults them concerning philo- 
sophic problems or ethical questions ; that they can give us 
no light on the problems of the natural universe; and that 
they are of no service in logic, dialectic, or political science.^ 
An admirable declaration of independence of natural science 
and medicine and other arts and constructive forms of 
thought from the methods of divination ! But also one 
more easy to state in general terms of theory than to enforce 
in details of practice, as Pliny, Galen, and Ptolemy have 
already shown us. None the less it is indeed a noteworthy 
restriction of the field of divination when Cicero remarks 
to his brother, "For those things which can be perceived 
beforehand either by art or reason or experience or conjec- 
ture you regard as not the affair of diviners but of scien- 
tists." ^ But the question remains whether too large powers 
of prediction may not be claimed by "science." 

Cicero proceeds to attack the methods and assumptions 
of divination as neither reasonable nor scientific. Why, Unreason- 
he asks, did Calchas deduce from the devoured sparrows ^gfj^*'^ 
that the Trojan war would last ten years rather than ten 
weeks or ten months ? * He points out that the art is con- 
ducted in different places according to quite different rules 
of procedure, even to the extent that a favorable omen in 
one locality is a sinister warning elsewhere.^ He refuses to 
believe in any extraordinary bonds of sympathy between 
things which, in so far as our daily experience and our 

'I, so. ''11,30. 

a Tj - . " II, 12. An astrologer, how- 

' '^ ^' ever, would probably say that 

* II, 5. "Quae enim praesentiri seeming contradiction could be ac- 

aut arte aut ratione aut usu aut counted for by the varying influ- 

coniectura possunt, ea non divinis ence of the constellations upon 

tribuenda putas sed peritis." different regions. 



of natural 

Cicero and 

knowledge of the workings of nature can inform us, have 
no causal connection. What intimate connection, he asks, 
what bond of natural causality can there be between the 
liver or heart or lung of a fat bull and the divine eternal 
cause of all which rules the universe?^ "That anything 
certain is signified by uncertain things, is not this the last 
thing a scientist should admit?" " He refuses to accept 
dreams as fit channels either of natural divination or divine 
revelation.^ The Sibylline Books, like most oracles, are 
vague and the evident product of labored ingenuity.* 

Moreover, divination asserts the existence of phenomena 
which science denies. Such a figment, Cicero scornfully 
affirms, as that the heart will vanish from the carcass of a 
victim is not believed even by old-wives now-a-days. How 
can the heart vanish from the body? Surely it must be 
there as long as life lasts, and how can it disappear in an 
instant? "Believe me, you are abandoning the citadel of phi- 
losophy while you defend its outposts. For in your effort 
to prove soothsaying true you utterly pervert physiology. 
. . . For there will be something which either springs from 
nothing or suddenly vanishes into nothingness. What scien- 
tist ever said that? The soothsayers say so? Are they 
then, do you think, to be trusted rather than scientists?"*^ 
Cicero makes other arguments against divination such 
as the stock contentions that it is useless to know prede- 
termined events beforehand since they cannot be avoided, 
and that even if we can learn the future, we shall be happier 
not to do it, but his outstanding argument is that it is un- 

Cicero's attack upon divination is mainly directed 
against liver divination and analogous methods of predict- 
ing the future, but he devotes a few chapters ^ to the doc- 
trines of the Chaldeans. They postulate a certain force in 
the constellations called the zodiac and hold that between 
*II, 12. 'II, 60-71. 

^11, 19. "Quid igitur minus a ^11, 54. 

physicis dici debet quam quidquam 'II, 16. 

certi significari rebus incertis ?" " II, 42-47. 


man and the position of the stars and planets at the moment 
of his birth there exists a relation of sympathy so that his 
personality and all the events of his life are thereby deter- 
mined. Diogenes the Stoic limited this influence to the 
determination of one's aptitude and vocation, but Cicero 
regards even this much as going too far. The immense 
spaces intervening between the different planets seem to him 
a reason for rejecting the contentions of the Chaldeans. 
His further criticism that they insist that all men born at 
the same moment are alike in character regardless of hori- 
zons and different aspects of the sky in different places is 
one that at least did not hold good permanently against 
astrology and is not true of Ptolemy. He asks if all the 
men who perished at Cannae were born beneath the same 
star and how it came about that there was only one Homer 
if several men are born every instant. He also adduces 
the stock argument from twins. He attacks the practice, 
which we shall find continued in the middle ages, of astro- 
logical prediction of the fate of cities. He says that if all 
animals are to be subjected to the stars, then inanimate 
things must be, too, than which nothing can be more absurd. 
This suggests that he hardly conceives of the fundamental 
hypothesis of medieval science that all inferior nature is 
under the influence of the celestial bodies and their motion 
and light. At any rate his arguments are directed against 
the casting of horoscopes or genethlialogy. And in the 
matter of the influence of the planets upon man he was not 
entirely antagonistic, at least in other writings than the De 
divinatione, for in the Dream of Scipio he speaks of Jupiter 
as a star wholesome and favorable to the human race, of 
Mars as most unfavorable. He further calls seven and 
eight perfect numbers and speaks of their product, fifty-six, 
as signifying the fatal year in Scipio's life. Incidentally, as 
another instance that Cicero was not always sceptical, it may 
be recalled that it was in Cicero that Pliny read of a man 
who could see one hundred and thirty-five miles. -^ 

^NH, VII, 21. 



His crude 

against as- 

Such apparent inconsistency is perhaps a sign of some- 
what indiscriminating eclecticism on Cicero's part. We ex- 
perience something of a shock, although perhaps we should 
not be surprised, to find him in his Republic ^ arguing as 
seriously in favor of the ascension or apotheosis of Romulus 
as a historic fact as a professor of natural science in a 
denominational college might argue in favor of the his- 
toricity of the resurrection of Christ. Although in the De 
divinatione he impatiently brushed aside the testimony of so 
great a cloud of witnesses and of most philosophers in favor 
of divination, he now argues that the opinion that Romulus 
had become a god "could not have prevailed so universally 
unless there had been some extraordinary manifestation of 
power," and that "this is the more remarkable because other 
men, said to have become gods, lived in less learned times 
when the mind was prone to invent and the inexperienced 
were easily led to believe," whereas Romulus lived only six 
centuries ago when literature and learning had already made 
great progress in removing error, when "Greece was already 
full of poets and musicians, and little faith was placed in 
legends unless they concerned remote antiquity." Yet a 
few chapters later Cicero notes that Numa could not have 
been a pupil of Pythagoras, since the latter did not come to 
Italy until 140 years after his death; ^ and in a third chap- 
ter ^ when Laelius remarks, "That king is indeed praised 
but Roman History is obscure, for although we know the 
mother of this king, we are ignorant of his father," Scipio 
replies, "That is so ; but in those times it was almost enough 
if only the names of the kings were recorded." We can 
only add, "Consistency, thou art a jewel 1" 

Favorinus denied that the doctrine of nativities was the 
work of the Chaldeans and regarded it as the more recent 
invention of marvel-mongers, tricksters, and mountebanks. 
He regards the inference from the effect of the moon on 
tides to that of the stars on every incident of our daily life 

^Republic, II, 10. 

'Ibid.. II, 15. 

'Ibid., II, 18. 


as unwarranted. He further objects that if the Chaldeans 
did record astronomical observations these would apply only 
to their own region and that observations extended over a 
vast lapse of time would be necessary to establish any system 
of astrology, since it requires ages before the stars return 
to their previous positions. Like Cicero, Favorinus prob- 
ably manifests his ignorance of the technique of astrology 
in complaining that astrologers do not allow for the differ- 
ent influence of different constellations in different parts of 
the earth. More cogent is his suggestion that there may be 
other stars equal in power to the planets which men cannot 
see either for their excess of splendor or because of their 
position. He also objects that the position of the stars is 
not the same at the time of conception and the time of birth, 
and that, if the different fate of twins may be explained by 
the fact that after all they are not born at precisely the same 
moment, the time of birth and the position of the stars must 
be measured with an exactness practically impossible. He 
also contends that it is not for human beings to predict the 
future and that the subjection of man not merely in matters 
of external fortune but in his own acts of will to the stars 
is not to be borne. These two arguments of the divine pre- 
rogative and of human free will became Christian favorites. 
He complains that the astrologers predict great events like 
battles but cannot predict small ones, and declares that they 
may congratulate themselves that he does not propose such 
a question to them as that of astral influence on minute ani- 
mals. This and his further question why, out of all the 
grand works of nature, the astrologers limit their attention 
to petty human fortune, suggest that like Cicero he did not 
realize that astrology was or would become a theory of all 
nature and not mere genethlialogy. 

To the arguments against nativities that men die the Sextus 
same death who were not born at the same time and that Empincus. 
men who are born at the same time are not identical in 
character or fortune Sextus Empiricus adds the derisive 
question whether a man and an ass born in the same instant 



Lucius or 
The Ass: 
is it by 
Lucian ? 

would suffer exactly the same destiny. Ptolemy would of 
course reply that while the influence of the stars is constant 
in both cases it is variably received by men and donkeys; 
and Sextus's query does not show him very well versed in 
astrology. He mentions the obstacle of free will to astro- 
logical theory but does not make very much of it. The chief 
point which he makes is that even if the stars do rule human 
destiny, their effect cannot be accurately measured. He 
lays stress on the difficulty of exactly determining the date 
of birth or of conception, or the precise moment when a 
star passes into a new sign of the zodiac. He notes the 
variability and unreliability of water-clocks. He calls atten- 
tion to the fact that observers at varying altitudes as well 
as in different localities would arrive at different conclu- 
sions. Differences in eyesight would also affect results, and 
it is difficult to tell just when the sun sets or any sign of 
the zodiac drops below the horizon owing to reflection and 
refraction of rays. Sextus thus leaves us somewhat in doubt 
whether his objections are to be taken as indicative of a 
spirit of captious criticism towards an art, the fundamental 
principles of which he tacitly recognizes as well-nigh incon- 
testible, or whether he is simply trying to make his case 
doubly sure by showing astrology to be impracticable as 
well as unreasonable. In any case we shall find his argument 
that the influence of the stars cannot be measured accurately 
repeated by Christian writers. 

The main plot of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius ap- 
pears, shorn of the many additional stories, the religious 
mysticism, and the autobiographical element which charac- 
terize his narrative, in a brief and perhaps epitomized Greek 
version, entitled Lucius or The Ass, among the works of 
Lucian of Samosata, the contemporary of Apuleius and 
noted satirist. The work is now commonly regarded as 
spurious, since the style seems different from that of Lucian 
and the Attic Greek less pure. The narrative, too, is bare, 
at least compared with the exuberant fancy of Apuleius, and 
seems to avoid the marvelous and romantic details in which 


he abounds. Photius, patriarch of Constantinople in the 
ninth century, who regarded the work as Lucian's, said that 
he wrote in it as one deriding the extravagance of super- 
stition. Whether this be true of The Ass or not, it is true 
of other satires by Lucian of undisputed genuineness, in 
which he ridicules the impostures of the magic and pseudo- 
science of his day. In place of the genial humor and fantas- 
tic imagination with which his African contemporary credu- 
lously welcomed the magic and occult science of his time, 
the Syrian satirist probes the same with the cool mockery of 
his keen and sceptical wit. 

Lucian was born at Samosata near Antioch about 120 or Career of 
125 A. D. and after an unsuccessful beginning as a sculptor's 
apprentice turned to literature and philosophy. He prac- 
ticed in the law courts at Antioch for some time and also 
wrote speeches for others. For a considerable period of his 
life he roamed about the Mediterranean world from Paphla 
gonia to Gaul as a rhetorician, and like Apuleius resided both 
at Athens and Rome. After forty he ceased teaching 
rhetoric and devoted himself to literary production, living 
at Athens. Towards the close of his life, "when he already 
had one foot in Charon's boat," ^ he was holding a well paid 
and important legal position in Egypt. His death occurred 
perhaps about 200 A. D. Some ascribe it to gout, probably 
because he wrote two satires on that disease. Suidas states 
that Lucian was torn to pieces by dogs as a punishment for 
his attacks upon Christianity, which again is probably a 
perversion of Lucian's own statement in Peregrinus that he 
narrowly escaped being torn to pieces by the Cynics. 

It was at the request of that same adversary of Chris- Alexander 

tianity against whom Origen composed the Reply to Ceisus 'A'^j^j^. 

that Lucian wrote his account of the impostor, Alexander prophet. 

of Abonutichus, a pseudo-prophet of Paphlagonia. This 

Alexander pretended to discover the god Asclepius in th« 

form of a small viper which he had sealed up in a goose tgg. 

'^Apologia pro mercede conduc- H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler, 
tis. Most of Lucian's Essays have 1905, 4 vols, 
been translated into English by 


He then replaced the tiny viper by a huge tame serpent which 
he had purchased at Pella in Macedon and which was trained 
to hide its head in Alexander's armpit, while to the crowd, 
who were also permitted to touch the tail and body of the 
real snake, was shown a false serpent's head made of linen 
with human features and a mouth that opened and shut and 
a tongue that could be made to dart in and out. Having thus 
convinced the people that the viper had really been a god 
and had miraculously increased in size, Alexander proceeded 
to sell oracular responses as from the god. Inquirers sub- 
mitted their questions in sealed packages which were later 
returned to them with appropriate answers and with the seals 
unbroken and apparently untouched. Similarly Plutarch 
tells of a sceptical opponent of oracles who became converted 
into their ardent supporter by receiving such an answer to 
a sealed letter.^ Lucian, however, explains that Alexander 
sometimes used a hot needle to melt the seal and then restore 
it to practically its original shape, or employed other methods 
by which he took exact impressions of the seal, then boldly 
broke it, read the question, and afterwards replaced the seal 
by an exact replica of the original made in the mould. 
Lucian adds that there are plenty of other devices of this 
sort which he does not need to repeat to Celsus who has 
already made a sufficient collection of them in his "excellent 
treatises against the magicians." Lucian tells later, how- 
ever, how Alexander made his god seem to speak by attach- 
ing a tube made of the windpipes of cranes to the artificial 
head and having an assistant outside speak through this 
concealed tube. In our later discussion of the church father 
Hippolytus we shall find that he apparently made use of this 
expose of magic by Lucian as well as of the arguments of 
Sextus Empiricus against astrology. Lucian's personal ex- 
periences with this Alexander were quite interesting but 
are less germane to our investigation. 

^ De defectu oraculorum, 45. 


We must not fail, however, to note another essay, Philo- Magicai 
pseudes or Apiston, in which the superstition and pseudo- fn^medr-^^ 
science of antiquity are sharply satirized in what purports cine 
to be a conversation of several philosophers, including a 
Stoic, a Peripatetic, and a Platonist, and a representative of 
ancient medicine in the person of Antigonus, a doctor. Some 
of the magical procedure then employed in curing diseases 
is first satirized. Cleodemus the Peripatetic advises as a 
remedy for gout to take in the left hand the tooth of a field 
mouse which has been killed in a prescribed manner, to wrap 
it in the skin of a lion freshly-flayed, and thus to bind it 
about the ailing foot. He affirms that it will give instant 
relief. Dinomachus the Stoic admits that the occult virtue 
of the lion is very great and that its fat or right fore-paw 
or the bristles of its beard, if combined with the proper 
incantations, have wonderful efficacy. But he holds that for 
the cure of gout the skin of a virgin hind would be superior 
on the ground that the hind is speedier than the lion and so 
more beneficial to the feet. Cleodemus retorts that he used 
to think the same, but that a Libyan has convinced him that 
the lion can run faster than the hind or it would never catch 
one. The sceptical reporter of this conversation states that 
he vainly attempted to convince them that an internal disease 
could not be cured by external attachments or by incanta- 
tions, methods which he regards as the veriest sorcery 

His protests, however, merely lead Ion the Platonist to Snake; 
recount how a Magus, a Chaldean of Babylonia, cured his '^ ^^^^S- 
father's gardener who had been stung by an adder on the 
great toe and was already all swollen up and nearly dead. 
The magician's method was to apply a splinter of stone from 
the statue of a virgin to the toe, uttering at the same time 
an incantation. He then led the way to the field where the 
gardener had been stung; pronounced seven sacred names 
from an ancient volume, and fumigated the place thrice with 
torches and sulphur. All the snakes in the field then came 
forth from their holes with the exception of one very aged 



A Hyper- 





and decrepit serpent, whom the magician sent a young snake 
back to fetch. Having thus assembled every last serpent, he 
blew upon them, and they all vanished into thin air. 

This tale reminds the Stoic of another magician, a bar- 
barian and Hyperborean, who could walk through fire or 
upon water and even fly through the air. He could also 
"make people fall in love, call up spirits, resuscitate corpses, 
bring down the moon, and show you Hecate herself as large 
as life." ^ More specific illustration of the exercise of these 
powers is given in an account of a love spell which he per- 
formed for a young man for a big fee. Digging a trench, 
he raised the ghost of the youth's father and also summoned 
Hecate, Cerberus, and the Moon. The last named appeared 
in three successive forms of a woman, an ox, and a puppy. 
The sorcerer then constructed a clay image of the god of 
love and sent it to fetch the girl, who came and stayed until 
cock-crow, when all the apparitions vanished with her. In 
vain the sceptic argues that the girl in question would have 
come willingly enough without any magic. The Platonist 
matches the previous story with one of a Syrian from Pales- 
tine who cast out demons. 

The discussion then further degenerates into ghost 
stories and tales of statuettes that leave their pedestals after 
the household has retired for the night. One speaker says 
that he no longer has any fear of ghosts since an Arab gave 
him a magic ring made of nails from crosses and taught him 
an incantation to use against spooks. At this juncture a 
Pythagorean philosopher of great repute enters and adds his 
testimony in the form of an account of how he laid a ghost 
at Corinth by employing an Egyptian incantation. 

Eucrates, the host, then tells of Pancrates, whom he had 
met in Egypt and who "had spent twenty-three years under- 
ground learning magic from Isis," and whom crocodiles 
would allow to ride on their backs. They traveled a time 
together without a servant, since Pancrates was able to dress 
up the door-bar or a broom or pestle, turn it into human 
^ Fowler's translation. 


form, and make it wait upon them. There follows the 
familiar story of Eucrates' overhearing the incantation of 
three syllables which Pancrates employed and of trying it 
out himself when the magician was absent. The pestle 
turned into human form all right enough and obeyed his 
order to bring in water, but then he discovered that he could 
not make it stop, and when he seized an axe and chopped it 
in two, the only effect was to produce two water-carriers in 
place of one. 

The conversation is turning to the subject of oracles Credulity 
when the sceptic can stand it no longer and retires in dis- scepticism, 
gust. As he tells what he has heard to a friend, he remarks 
upon the childish credulity of "these admired teachers from 
whom our youth are to learn wisdom." At the same time, 
the stories seem to have made a considerable impression even 
upon him, and he wishes that he had some lethal drug to 
make him forget all these monsters, demons, and Hecates 
that he seems still to see before him. His friend, too, de- 
clares that he has filled him with demons. Their dialogue 
then concludes with the consoling reflection that truth and 
sound reason are the best drugs for the cure of such empty 

The Menippus or Necromancy, while an obvious imita- Menippus, 
tion and parody of Odysseus' mode of descent to the under- 
world to consult Teiresias, also throws some light on the 
magic of Lucian's time. In order to reach the other world 
Menippus went to Babylon and consulted Mithrobarzanes, 
one of the Magi and followers of Zoroaster. He is also 
called one of the Chaldeans. Besides a final sacrifice 
similar to that of Odysseus, the procedure by which the 
magician procured their passage to the other world included 
on his part muttered incantations and invocations, for the 
most part unintelligible to Menippus, spitting thrice in the 
latter's face, waving torches about, drawing a magic circle, 
and wearing a magic robe. As for Menippus, he had to 
bathe in the Euphrates at sunrise every morning for the 
full twenty-nine days of a moon, after which he was purified 




cal inter- 
of Greek 

at midnight in the Tigris and by fumigation. He had to 
sleep out-of-doors and observe a special diet, not look any- 
one in the eye on his way home, walk backwards, and so 
on. The ultimate result of all these preparations was that 
the earth was burst asunder by the final incantation and the 
way to the underworld laid open. When it came time to 
return Menippus crawled up with difficulty, like Dante going 
from the Inferno to Purgatory, through a narrow tunnel 
which opened on the shrine of Trophonius. 

An essay on astrology ascribed to Lucian is usually 
regarded as spurious.^ Denial of its authenticity, however, 
should rest on such grounds as its literary style and the 
manuscript history of the work rather than upon its — to 
modern eyes — superstitious character. In antiquity a man 
might be sceptical about most superstitions and yet believe 
in astrology as a science. Lucian's sceptical friend Celsus, 
for example, as we shall see in our chapter on Origen's 
Reply to Celsus, believed that the future could be foretold 
from the stars. And whether the present essay is genuine or 
spurious, it is certainly noteworthy that for all his mockery 
of other superstition Lucian does not attack astrology in any 
of his essays. Moreover, this essay on astrology is very 
sceptical in one way, since it denies the literal truth of vari- 
ous Greek myths and gives an astrological interpretation of 
them, as in the case of Zeus and Kronos and the so-called 
adultery of Mars. This is not inconsistent with Lucian's 
ridicule elsewhere of the anthropomorphic Olympian divini- 
ties. What Orpheus taught the Greeks was astrology, and 
the planets were signified by the seven strings of his lyre. 
Teiresias taught them further to distinguish which stars were 
masculine and which feminine in character and influence. 
A proper interpretation of the myth of Atreus and Thyestes 
also shows the Greeks at an early date acquainted with astro- 
logical doctrine. Bellerophon soared to the sky, not on a 

* Fowler omits it. It appears in 
the Teubner edition, Luciani 
Samosatensis opera, ed. C. Jaco- 
bitz, II (1887), 187-95, but both 

Jacobitz and Dindorf mark it as 
spurious. Croiset, Essai sur la 
vie et les oouvrcs de Lucien, Paris, 
1882, p. 43, also rejects it. 


horse but by the scientific power of his mind. Daedalus 
taught Icarus astrology and the fable of Phaethon is to be 
similarly interpreted. Aeneas was not really the son of the 
goddess Venus, nor Minos of Jupiter, nor Aesculapius of 
Mars, nor Autolycus of Mercury. These are to be taken 
simply as the planets under whose rule they were born. 
The author also connects Egyptian animal worship with the 
signs of the zodiac. 

The author of the essay also delves into the history of History 
astrology, to which he assigns a high antiquity. The ^^^^^ ^'f 
Ethiopians were the first to cultivate it and handed it on in a astrology, 
still imperfect stage to the Egyptians who developed it. The 
Babylonians claim to have studied it before other peoples, 
but our author thinks that they did so long after the Ethi- 
opians and Egyptians. The Greeks were instructed in the 
art neither by the Ethiopians nor the Egyptians, but, as we 
have seen, by Orpheus. Our author not only states that the 
ancient Greeks never built towns or walls or got married 
without first resorting to divination, but even asserts that 
astrology was their sole method of divination, that the 
Pythia at Delphi was the type of celestial purity and that the 
snake under the tripod represented the dragon among the 
constellations, Lycurgus taught his Lacedaemonians to ob- 
serve the moon, and only the uncultured Arcadians held 
themselves aloof from astrology. Yet at the present day 
some oppose the art, declaring either that the stars have 
naught to do with human affairs or that astrology is useless 
since what is fated cannot be avoided. To the latter objec- 
tion our author makes the usual retort that forewarned is 
forearmed; as for the former denial, if a horse stirs the 
stones in the road as it runs, if a passing breath of wind 
moves straws to and fro, if a tiny flame burns the finger, will 
not the courses and deflexions of the brilliant celestial bodies 
have their influence upon earth and mankind? 

The manner of the essay does not seem like Lucian's Lucian not 
usual style, and the astrological interpretation of religious sceptical, 
myth was characteristic of the Stoic philosophy, whereas 






Lucian's philosophical affinities, if he can be said to have 
any, are perhaps rather with the Epicureans. But Celsus 
was an Epicurean and yet believed in astrology. It must 
not be thought, however, that Lucian in his other essays 
is always sceptical in regard to what we should classify as 
superstition. He tells us how his career was determined by 
a dream in the autobiographical essay of that title. In the 
Dialogues of the Gods magic is mentioned as a matter-of- 
course, Zeus complaining that he has to resort to magic in 
order to win women and Athene warning Paris to have 
Aphrodite remove her girdle, since it is drugged or enchanted 
and may bewitch him. 

The writings of Lucian contain many allusions to the 
doctors, diseases, and medicines of his time.^ On the whole 
he confirms Galen's picture. Numerous passages show that 
the medical profession was held in high esteem, and Lucian 
himself first went to Rome in order to consult an oculist. 
At the same time Lucian satirizes the quacks and medical 
superstition of the time, as we have already seen, and 
describes several statues which were believed to possess heal- 
ing powers. In the burlesque tragedy on gout, Tragodopo- 
dagra, whose authenticity, however, is questioned, the dis- 
ease personified is triumphant, and the moral seems to be 
that all the remedies which men have tried are of no avail. 
On the other hand, Lucian wrote seriously of the African 
snake whose bite causes one to die of thirst {De dipsadibus). 
He admits that he has never seen anyone in this condition 
and has not even been in Libya where these snakes are 
found, but a friend has assured him that he has seen the 
tombstone epitaph of a man who had died thus, a rather 
indirect mode of proof which we are surprised should satisfy 
the author of How to Write History. Lucian also repeats 
the common notion that persons bitten by a mad dog can 
be cured only by a hair or other portion of the same animal.^ 

^ See the interesting paper of J. Proceedings of the Royal Society 
D. Rolleston, "Lucian and Medi- of Medicine, VIII, 49-58, 72-84. 
cine," 1915, 23 pp., reprinted from * See the close of Nigrinus. 


Our chapter which set out to note cases of scepticism Inevitable 

in regard to superstition has ended by including a great gHng"of ' 

deal of such superstition. The sceptics themselves seem scepticism 

, T • . • 1 ^"^ super- 

credulous on some pomts, and Lucian s satire perhaps more stition. 

reveals than refutes the prevalence of superstition among 
even the highly educated. The same is true of other literary 
satirists of the Roman Empire whose jibes against the 
astrologers and their devotees only attest the popularity of 
the art and who themselves very probably meant only to 
ridicule its more extreme pretensions and were perhaps at 
bottom themselves believers in the fundamentals of the art. 
Our authors to some extent, as we have pointed out, pro- 
vided an arsenal of arguments from which later Christian 
writers took weapons for their assaults upon pagan magic 
and astrology. But sometimes subsequent writers confused 
scepticism with credulity, and the influence of our authors 
upon them became just the opposite of what they intended. 
Thus Ammianus Marcellinus, the soldier-historian of the 
falling Roman Empire upon whom Gibbon placed so much 
reliance, was so attached to divination that he even quoted 
its arch-opponent, Cicero, in support of it. For he actually 
concludes his discussion of the subject in these words : 
"Wherefore in this as in other matters Tully says most 
admirably, 'Signs of future events are shown by the 
gods.' " 1 

But in order to conclude our chapter on scepticism with Lucian on 
a less obscurantist passage, let us return to Lucian. His J^jg^Q^y 
essay. How to Write History, gives serious expression to 
those ideals of truth and impartiality which also lie behind 
his mockery of impostors and the over-credulous. "The 
historian's one task," in his estimation, "is to tell the thing 
as it happened." He should be "fearless, incorruptible, in- 
dependent, a believer in frankness, ... an impartial judge, 
kind to all but too kind to none." "He has to make of his 
brain a mirror, unclouded, bright, and true of surface." 
"Facts are not to be collected at haphazard but with careful, 
^ Rerum gestarum libri qui supersunt, XXI, i, 14. 


laborious, repeated investigation." "Prefer the disinterested 
account." ^ Such sentences and phrases as these reveal a 
scientific and critical spirit of high order and seem a vast 
improvement upon the frailty of Cicero's historical criticism. 
But how far Lucian would have been able to follow his own 
advice is perhaps another matter. 

^The wording of these excerpts is that of Fowler's translation. 



Mystic works of revelation — The Hermetic books — Poimandres and 
the Hermetic Corpus — Astrological treatises ascribed to Hermes — 
Hermetic works of alchemy — Nechepso and Petosiris — Manetho — The 
Lithica of Orpheus — Argument of the poem — Magic powers of stones 
— Magic rites to gain powers of divination — Power of gems compared 
with herbs — Magic herbs and demons in Orphic rites — Books ascribed to 
Zoroaster — The Chaldean Oracles. 

There were in circulation in the Roman Empire many writ- Mystic 
ings which purported to be of divine origin and authorship, ^velation. 
or at least the work of ancient culture-heroes and founders 
of religions who were of divine descent and divinely in- 
spired. These oracular and mystic compositions usually 
pretend to great antiquity and often claim as their home 
such hoary lands as Egypt and Chaldea, although in the 
Hellenic past Apollo and in the Roman past the Sibylline 
books ^ also afford convenient centers about which forgeries 
cluster. Assuming as these writings do to disclose the 
secrets of ancient priesthoods and to publish what should 
not be revealed to the vulgar crowd, they may be confidently 
expected to embody a great deal of superstition and magic 
along with their expositions of mystic theologies. Also the 
authors, editors, or publishers of astrological, alchemistic, 
and other pseudo-scientific treatises could not be expected 
to resist the temptation of claiming a venerable and cryptic 
origin for some of their books. Moreover, such pseudo- 
literature was not entirely unjustified in its affirmation of 
high antiquity. Few things in intellectual history antedate 
magic, and these spurious compositions are not especially 

* See Sackur, Sibyllinische Texte und Forschiingen, Halle, 1898; Alex- 
andre, Oracida Sibyllina, 2nd ed., Paris, 1869; Charles (1913) H, 368 ff. 



distinguished by new ideas, although they to some extent 
reflect the progress made in learning, occult as well as scien- 
tific, in the Hellenistic age. It must be added that much of 
their contents depends for its effect entirely upon its claim 
to eminent authorship and great antiquity and upon the im- 
pressionability of its public. To-day most of it seems 
trivial commonplace or marked by the empty vagueness 
characteristic of oracular utterances. I shall attempt no 
complete exposition or exhaustive treatment of such writ- 
ings ^ but touch upon a few examples which bear upon the 
relations of science and magic. 
The Chief among these are the Hermetic books or writings 

books. attributed to Hermes the Egyptian or Trismegistus. "Under 

this name," wrote Steinschneider in 1906, "there exists in 
many languages a literature, for the most part superstitious, 
which seems to have not yet been treated in its totality." ^ 
The Egyptian god Thoth or Tehuti, known in Greek as 
OioW, QccO, and Tar, was identified with Hermes, and the 
epithet "thrice-great" is also derived from the Egyptian 
aa aa, "the great Great." Citations of works ascribed to this 
Hermes Trismegistus can be traced back as early as the first 
century of our era.^ He is also mentioned or quoted by 
various church fathers from Athenagoras to Augustine and 
often figures in the magical papyri. The historian Ammi- 
anus Marcellinus ^ in the fourth century ranks him with the 
great sages of the past such as Pythagoras, Socrates, and 
Apollonius of Tyana. Our two chief descriptions of the 
Hermetic books from the period of the Roman Empire are 
found in the Stromata^ of the Christian Clement of Alex- 
andria (C.150-C.220 A.D.) and in the De mysteriis^ 
ascribed to the Neo-Platonist lamblichus (died about 330 

* Besides the works to be cited ^Steinschneider (1906), 24. He 

later in this chapter, the reader mentions the dissertation of R. 

may consult : A. Dieterich, Ab- Pietschmann, Hermes Trismegis- 

raxas (Studien z. relig. gcsch. d. tus, Leipzig, 1875. 

.y/)af. a/^.), Leipzig, 1891, especially ^ See Galen, citing Pamphilus, 

chapter II (pp. I36ff.), "Jiidisch- Kuhn, XI, 798. 

orphisch-gnostiche Kulte und die * XXI, 14, 15. 

Zauberbiicher" ; and G. A. Lobeck, ' VI, 4. 

Aglaophanms, 1829, 2 vols. *I, IJ VIII, 1-4. 


A. D.). Clement speaks of forty-two books by Hermes 
which are regarded as "indispensable." Of these ten are 
called "Hieratic" and deal with the laws, the gods, and the 
training of the priests. Ten others detail the sacrifices, 
prayers, processions, festivals, and other rites of Egyptian 
worship. Two contain hymns to the gods and rules for 
the king. Six are medical, "treating of the structure of the 
body and of diseases and instruments and medicines and 
about the eyes and the last about women." Four are astro- 
nomical or astrological, and the remaining ten deal with 
cosmography and geography or with the equipment of the 
priests and the paraphernalia of the sacred rites. Clement 
does not say so, but from his brief summary one can 
imagine how full these volumes probably were of occult 
virtues of natural substances, of magical procedure, and of 
intimate relations and interactions between nature, stars, 
and spirits. lamblichus repeats the statement of Seleucus 
that Hermes wrote twenty thousand volumes and the asser- 
tion of Manetho that there were 36,525 books, a number 
doubtless connected with the supposed length of the year, 
three hundred and sixty-five and one-quarter days.^ 
lamblichus adds that Hermes wrote one hundred treatises 
on the ethereal gods and one thousand concerning the 
celestial gods.^ He is aware, however, that most books 
attributed to Hermes were not really composed by him, 
since in other passages he speaks of "the books which are 
circulated under the name of Hermes," ^ and explains that 
"our ancestors . , . inscribed all their own writings with 
the name of Hermes," * thus dedicating them to him as the 
patron deity of language and theology. By the time of 
lamblichus these books had been translated from the Egyp- 
tian tongue into Greek. 

There has come down to us under the name of Hermes Poiman- 
a collection of seventeen or eighteen fragments which is hermetic ^ 
generally known as the Hermetic Corpus. Of the frag- Corpus. 

'VIII, I. 'VIII, 4. 

"VIII, 2. n, I. 


ments the first and chief is entitled Poimandres {HoLnavbp-qs), 
a name which is sometimes apphed to the entire Corpus. 
Another fragment entitled Asclepius, since it is in the form 
of a dialogue between him and "Mercurius Trismegis- 
tus," exists in a Latin form which has been ascribed probably 
incorrectly to Apuleius of Madaura as translator {Asclepius 
. . . Mercurii trismegisti dialogus Lucio Apuleio Madau- 
rensi philosopho Platonico interprete) . None of the Greek 
manuscripts of the Corpus seems older than the fourteenth 
century, although Reitzenstein thinks that they may all be 
derived from the version which Michael Psellus had before 
him in the eleventh century.^ But the concluding prayer 
of the Poimandres exists in a third century papyrus, and the 
alchemist Zosimus in the fourth century seems acquainted 
with the entire collection. The treatises in this Corpus are 
concerned primarily with religious philosophy or theosophy, 
with doctrines similar to those of Plato concerning the soul 
and to the teachings of the Gnostics, The moral and re- 
ligious instruction is associated, however, with a physics and 
cosmology very favorable to astrology and magic. Of magic 
in the narrow sense there is little in the Corpus, but a 
Hermetic fragment preserved by Stobaeus affirms that 
"philosophy and magic nourish the soul." Astrology plays 
a much more prominent part, and the stars are ranked as 
visible gods, of whom the sun is by far the greatest. All 
seven planets nevertheless control the changes in the world 
of nature; there are seven human types corresponding to 
them; and the twelve signs of the zodiac also govern the 
human body. Only the chosen few who possess gnosis or 
are capable of receiving nous can escape the decrees of fate 
as administered by the stars and ultimately return to the 
spiritual world, passing through "choruses of demons" and 
"courses of stars" and reaching the Ogdoad or eighth heaven 
above and beyond the spheres of the seven planets. ^ Such 

'R. Reitzenstein, Poimatuires, ^Citations supporting this and 

Leipzig, 1904, p. 319. This work the preceding sentences may be 

is the fullest scientific treatment found in Kroll's article on 

of the subject. Hermes Trismegistus in Pauly- 



Gnostic cosmology and demonolog}% especially the location 
of demons amid the planetary spheres, provides favorable 
ground for the development of astrological necromancy. 

Not only is a belief in astrology implied throughout the Astro- 
Poimandres, but a number of separate astrological treatises treatises 
are extant in whole or part under the name of Hermes Tris- |jcnbed to 
megistus/ and he is frequently cited as an authority in other 
Greek astrological manuscripts.- The treatises attributed 
to him comprise one upon general method,^ one on the names 
and powers of the twelve .signs, one on astrological medicine 
addressed to Ammon the Egyptian,^ one on thunder and 
lightning, and some hexameters on the relation of earth- 
quakes to the signs of the zodiac. This last is also ascribed 
to Orpheus.^ There are various allusions to and versions 
of tracts concerning the relation of herbs to the planets or 
signs of the zodiac or thirty-six decans.® These treatises 
attribute magic virtues to plants, include a prayer to be 
repeated when plucking each herb, and tell how to use the 

Wissowa, 809-820. The Poiman- 
dres was translated into English 
by John Everard, D.D., a mystic 
but also a popular preacher whose 
outspoken sermons caused his fre- 
quent arrest and imprisonment 
during the reigns of James I and 
Charles I. James is reported to 
have said of him, "What is this 
Dr. Ever-out? Hi? name shall be 
Dr. Never-out," {Diet. Nat. Biog,). 
Dr. Everard's translation was 
printed in 1650 and again in 1657 
when the "Asclepius" was added 
to it. In 1884 it appeared again 
in the Bath Occult Reprint Series 
with an introduction by Hargrave 
Jennings, and the second volume 
in the same series was Hermes' 
The Virgin of the World, pub- 
lished at London. Kroll mentions 
only the more recent translation 
by Mead, Thrice Greatest Her- 
mes. London, 1906. 

^ Consult the bibliography in 
Kroll's article in Pauly-Wissowa. 

' See the various volumes of 

Catalogiis codicum astrologorum 
Graecorum, passim. 

^ Unprinted. 

■* An English translation by 
John Harvey was printed in Lon- 
don, 1657, i2mo. It also exists in 
manuscript form in the British 
Museum ; Sloane 1734, fols. 283- 
98, "The learned work of Hermes 
Trismegistus intituled hys Phis- 
icke Mathematycke or Mathe- 
maticall Physickes, direct to Ham- 
mon Kinge of Egvpte." 

'Orphica, ed. Abel (1885), p. 

" It was to a work on this last 
subject that Pamphilus, cited by 
Galen, referred in mentioning the 
herb aerov, but this plant is not 
named in the extant treatise on 
the decans. Such treatises are 
more or less addressed to As- 
clepius : printed in J. B. Pitra, 
Analecta Sacra, V, ii, 279-go; 
Cat. cod. antral. Grace. IV, 134; 
VI, 83; VII, 231; VIII, ii, 159; 
VIII, iii, 151; and by Ruelle, Rev. 
Phil, XXXII, 247. 



works of 





astrological figures of the decans, engraved on stones, as 
healing amulets. 

Works under the name of Hermes Trismegistus are 
cited by Greek alchemists of the closing Roman Empire, such 
as Zosimus, Stephanus, and Olympiodorus, but those Her- 
metic treatises of alchemy which are extant are of late date 
and much altered. ■"• Some treatises are preserved only in 
Arabic; others are medieval Latin fabrications. The Greek 
alchemists, however, seem to have recited the mystic hymn 
of Hermes from the Poimandres? 

Hellenistic and Roman astrology sought to extend its 
roots far back into Egyptian antiquity by putting forth 
spurious treatises under the names, not only of Hermes 
Trismegistus, but also of Nechepso and Petosiris,^ who were 
regarded respectively as an Egyptian king and an Egyptian 
priest who had lived at least seven centuries before Christ. 
Indeed, they were held to be the recipients of divine revela- 
tion from Hermes and Asclepius. A lengthy astrological 
treatise, which Pliny ^ is the first to cite and from a four- 
teenth book of which Galen ^ mentions a magic ring of 
jasper engraved with a dragon and rays, seems to have 
appeared in their names probably at Alexandria in the 
Hellenistic period. Only fragments and citations ascribed 
to Nechepso and Petosiris are now extant.^ 

Yet another astrological work which claims to be drawn 
from the secret sacred books and cryptic monuments of 
ancient Egypt is ascribed to Manetho. It is a compilation 

^Berthelot (1885), pp. 133-6, and 
his article on Hermes Trisme- 
gistus in La Grande Encyclopedie; 
also Kroll on Hermes in Pauly- 
Wissowa, 799. 

'Berthelot (1885), p. 134. 

* Bouche-Leclercq, L'Astrologie 
grecque, 1899, PP- xi, 519-20, 

*NH, n, 21; VH, 50. 

"Kiihn, Xn, 207. 

"They have been collected and 
edited by E. Riess, Ncchepsonis 
et Petosiridis frag'menta niagica, 
in Philologus, Supplbd. VI, Got- 

tingen (1891-93), pp. 323-394- See 
also F. Boll, Die Erforschung der 
antikcn Astrologie, in Neue Jahrb. 
fiir das klass. Altert., XI (1908), 
p. 106, and his dissertation of the 
same title published at Bonn, 1890. 
I have found that Riess, while in- 
cluding some of the passages at- 
tributed to Nechepso by the sixth 
century medical writer, Aetius, 
seems to have overlooked the 
"Emplastrum Nechepsonis e cu- 
presso," Aetius, Tetrabibl., IV, 
Sermo III, cap. 19 (p. 771 in the 
edition of Stephanus, 15^). 


in verse of prognostications from the various constellations 
and is regarded as the work of several writers, of whom 
the oldest is placed in the reign of Alexander Severus in the 
third century.^ 

Orpheus is another author more cited than preserved by The 
classical antiquity. Pliny called him the first writer on herbs Orpheus, 
and suspected him of magic. Ernest Riess affirms that 
Rohde (Psyche, p. 398) "has abundantly proved that 
Orpheus' followers were among the chief promulgators of 
purifications and charms against evil spirits." ^ Among 
poems of some length extant under Orpheus' name the one 
of most interest to us is the Lithica, where in 770 lines the 
virtues of some thirty gems are set forth with considerable 
allusion to magic.^ The authorship is uncertain, but the 
verse is supposed to follow the prose treatise by Damigeron 
who lived in the second century B. C. The date of the poem 
is now generally fixed in the fourth century of our era, 
although King ^ argued for an earlier date. I agree with 
him that the allusion in lines 71-74 to decapitation on the 
charge of magic is, taken alone, too vague and blind to be 
associated with any particular event or time; editors since 
Tyrwhitt have connected it with the law of Constantius 
against magic and the persecution of magicians in 371 A. D. 
But King's contention that the Lithica is by the same author 
as the Argonaiitica, also ascribed to Orpheus, and is there- 
fore of early date, falls to the ground since the Argonaiitica, 
too, is now dated in the fourth century. 

^ Bouche-Leclercq, L'Astrologie rus texts in the Cunningham 

grecquc, 1898, p. xiii. Axt and Memoirs of the Royal Irish Acad- 

Riegler, Manethonis Apotclesmati- emy. 

corum libri sex Cologne, 1832. 3 ^j^^ ^^^^^ ^^^^ ^^ ^^^ Lithica 

Also edited by Koechly. is contained in Orphica, ed. E. 

_*_E. Riess, On Ancient Super- Abel, Lipsiae et Pragae, 1885. A 

stition, in Transactions Ameri- rather too free English verse 

can Philological Association translation, Orpheus on Gems, 

(1895), XXVI, 40-55. Grenfell is given in C. W. King, T/j^ /v^a/M- 

(1921), p. 151, announces that J. ral History, Ancient and Modern, 

G. Smyly is about to publish "a of Precious Stones and Gems and 

remarkable fragment of an Orphic of Precious Metals, London, 1865. 

ritual" among some thirty papy- * Pp. 397-98. 



of the 

powers of 

The Lithica opens by representing Hermes as bestowing 
upon mankind the precious lore of the marvelous virtues of 
gems. In his cave are stored stones which banish ghosts, 
robbers, and snakes, which bring health, happiness, victory 
in war and games, honor at courts and success in love, and 
which insure safety on journeys, the favor of the gods, and 
enable one to read the hidden thoughts of others and to 
understand the language of the birds as they predict the 
future. Few persons, however, avail themselves of this 
mystic lore, and those who do so are liable to be executed 
on the charge of magic. After this introduction, which may 
be regarded as a piquant appetizer to whet the reader's taste 
for further details, the virtues of individual stones are 
described, first in the words of Theodamas, a wise and divine 
man ^ whom the author meets on his way to perform annual 
sacrifice at an altar of the Sun, where as a child he narrowly 
escaped from a deadly snake, and then in a speech of the 
seer Helenus to Philoctetes which Theodamas quotes. Greek 
gods are often mentioned; as the poem proceeds the virtues 
of a number of gems are attributed to Apollo rather than 
Hermes; and there are allusions to Greek mythology and 
the Trojan war. Some gems are found in animals, for in- 
stance, in the viper or the brain of the stag. 

Let us turn to some examples of the marvelous virtues 
of particular stones. The crystal wins favorable answers 
from the gods to prayers; kindles fire, if held over sticks, 
yet itself remains cold; as a ligature benefits kidney trouble. 
Sacrifices in which the adamant is employed win the favor 
of the gods ; it is also called Lethaean because it makes one 
forget worries, or the milk-stone (galactis) because it re- 
news the milk of sheep or goats when powdered in brine and 
sprinkled over them. Worn as an amulet it counteracts the 
evil eye and gains royal favor for its bearer. The agate is 
an agricultural amulet and should be attached to the plow- 
man's arm and the horns of the oxen. Other stones help 
vineyards, bring rain or avert hail and pests from the crops. 

* Line 94, Trfpl<f>povi QeioddfiavTL', line 1 65, baiixovio^ <i>^s. 


Lychnis prevents a pot from boiling on a fire and makes it 
boil when the fire is dead. The magnet was used by the 
witches Circe and Medea in their spells; an unchaste wife 
is unable to remain in the bed where this stone has been 
placed with an incantation. Other stones cure snake-bite 
and various diseases, serve as love-charms or aids in child- 
birth, or counteract incantations and enchantments. 

To make the gem sidcritis or oreites utter vocal oracles Magic 
the operator must abstain for three weeks from animal food, ^^^^ 

the public baths, and the marriage bed ; he is then to wash P?wers of 

. ^ , , . . divination, 

and clothe the gem like an mfant and employ various sacri- 
fices, incantations, and illuminations. The gem Liparaios, 
known to the learned Magi of Assyria, when burnt on a 
bloodless altar with hymns to the Sun and Earth attracts 
snakes from their holes to the flame. Three youths robed 
in white and carrying two-edged swords should cut up the 
snake who comes nearest the fire into nine pieces, three for 
the Sun, three for the earth, three for the wise and prophetic 
maiden. These pieces are then to be cooked with wine, salt, 
and spices and eaten by those who wish to learn the language 
of birds and beasts. But further the gods must be invoked 
by their secret names and libations poured of milk, wine, 
oil, and honey. What is not eaten must be buried, and the 
participants in the feast are then to return home wearing 
chaplets but otherwise naked and speaking to no one whom 
they may meet. On their arrival home they are to sacrifice 
mixed spices. It will be recalled that Apollonius of Tyana 
and the Arabs also learned the language of the birds by 
eating snake-flesh. 

Thus gems are potent in religion and divination, love- Powers 
charms and child-birth, medicine and agriculture. The poem compared 
fails, however, to touch upon their uses in alchemy or rela- with herbs, 
tions to the stars, nor does it contain much of anything that 
can be called necromancy. But the author ranks the virtues 
of stones above those of herbs, whose powers disappear with 
age. Moreover, some plants are injurious, whereas the mar- 
velous virtues of stones are almost all beneficial as well as 



herbs and 
demons in 

ascribed to 

permanent. "There is great force in herbs," he says, "but 
far greater in stones," ^ an observation often repeated in 
the middle ages. 

More stress is laid upon the power of demons and herbs 
in a description which has been left us by Saint Cyprian,^ 
bishop of Antioch in the third century, of some pagan mys- 
teries upon Mount Olympus into which he was initiated 
when a boy of fifteen and which have been explained as 
Orphic rites. His initiation was under the charge of seven 
hierophants, lasted for forty days, and included instruction 
in the virtues of magic herbs and visions of the operations 
of demons. He was also taught the meaning of musical 
notes and harmonies, and saw how times and seasons were 
governed by good and evil spirits. In short, magic, pseudo- 
science, occult virtue, and perhaps astrology formed an 
important part of Orphic lore. 

Cumont states in his Oriental Religions in Roman 
Paganism that "towards the end of the Alexandrine period 
the books ascribed to the half -mythical masters of the 
Persian science, Zoroaster, Hosthanes and Hystaspes, were 
translated into Greek, and until the end of paganism those 
names enjoyed a prodigious authority." ^ Pliny regarded 
Zoroaster as the founder of magic and we have met 
other examples of his reputation as a magician. Later 
we shall find him cited several times in the Byzantine 
Geoponica which seems to use a book ascribed to him on 
the sympathy and antipathy existing between natural 
objects.^ Naturally a number of pseudo-Zoroastrian books 
were in circulation, some of which Porphyry, the Neo- 
Platonist, is said to have suppressed. At least he tells us in 
his Life of Plotinus ^ that certain Christians and other men 

'Lines 410-41 1. 

' Confessio S. Cypriani, in Acta 
Sanctorum, ed. BoUandists, Sept., 
VII, 222; L. Preller, Philologus 
(1846), I, 349ff.; cited by A. B. 
Cook, Zeus, Cambridge, 1914, I, 
iio-iii. The work is treated more 

fully below in Chapter 18. 

^ Franz Cumont, op. cit., Chi- 
cago, 191 1, p. 189. See also 
Windischmann, Zoroastrische Stu- 
dien, Berlin, 1863. 

* See below, Chapter 26. 
"Cap. 16. 


claimed to possess certain revelations of Zoroaster, but that 

he advanced many arguments to show that their book was 

not written by Zoroaster but was a recent composition. 

There has been preserved, however, in the writings of J^^ 

,, . r 1 1 Chaldean 

the Neo-Platonists a collection of passages known as the Oracles. 

Zoroastrian Logia or Chaldean Oracles ^ and which "present 
... a heterogeneous mass, now obscure and again bom- 
bastic, of commingled Platonic, Pythagorean, Stoic, Gnostic, 
and Persian tenets." ^ Not only are these often cited by 
the Neo-Platonists, but Porphyry, lamblichus, and Proclus 
composed commentaries upon them.^ Some think that these 
citations and commentaries have reference to a single work 
put together by Julian the Chaldean in the period of the 
Antonines. This "mass of oriental superstitions, a medley of 
magic, theurgy, and delirious metaphysics," ^ was reverenced 
by the Neo-Platonists of the following centuries as a sacred 
authority equal to the Timaeus of Plato. Our next chapter 
will therefore deal with the writings of the Neo-Platonists 
upon whom this spurious mystic literature had so much 

* Edited by Kroll, De oraculis Sacra, V, 2, pp. 192-95, Up6k\ov bt 

Chaldaicis, in Breslaii Philolog. rrjs XaXdaiKijs (l)i\oao4>Lai. Many quo- 

Abhandl., VII (1894), 1-76. Cory, tations of oracles from Porphyry's 

Ancient Fragments, London, 1832. De philosophia ex oraculis hausta 

' L. A. Gray in A. V. W. Jack- are made by Eusebius, Praeparatio 

son, Zoroaster, 1901, pp. 259-60. evangclica, in PG, XXI. 

' G. Wolff, Porphyrii de phi- ' Bouche-Leclercq, L'Astrologie 

losophia ex oraculis hauriendis, grecque, p. 599. 
Berlin, 1886. Pitra, Analecta 





and the 

Neo-Platonism and the occult — Plotinus on magic — The life of rea- 
son is alone free from magic — Plotinus unharmed by magic — Invoking 
the demon of Plotinus — Rite of strangling birds — Plotinus and astrology 
—The stars as signs — The divine star-souls — How do the stars cause 
and signify? — Other causes and signs than the stars — Stars not the 
cause of evil — Against the astrology of the Gnostics — Fate and free- 
will — Summary of the attitude of Plotinus to astrology — Porphyry's 
Letter to Anebo — Its main argument — Questions concerning divine 
natures — Orders of spiritual beings — Nature of demons — The art of 
theurgy — Invocations and the power of words — Magic a human art : 
theurgy divine — Magic's abuse of nature's forces — Its evil character — 
Its deceit and unreality — Porphyry on modes of divination — lamblichus 
on divination — Are the stars gods? — Is there an art of astrology? — 
Porphyry and astrology — Astrological images — Number mysticism — 
Porphyry as reported by Eusebius — The emperor Julian on theurgy 
and astrology — Julian and divination — Scientific divination according to 
Ammianus Marcellinus — Proclus on theurgy — Neo-Platonic account of 
magic borrowed by Christians — Neo-Platonists and alchemy. 

That the Neo-Platonists were much given to the occult has 
been a common impression among- those who have written 
upon the period of the decline of the Roman Empire, of the 
end of paganism, and the passing of classical philosophy. 
This is perhaps in some measure the result of Christian view- 
point and hostility; probably the Christians of the period 
would seem equally superstitious to a modern Neo-Platonist. 
If the lives of the philosophers by Eunapius sound like fairy 
tales, ^ what do the lives of the saints of the same period 
sound like? If the Neo-Platonists were like our mediums, 

* Paul Allard, La transforma- 
tion dii Paganismc romain an IJ^e 
siccle, pp. 113-33, in Compte 
Rendu du Congrcs Scicnlifique 

International dcs Catholiqucs. 
Detixicme Section, Sciences re 
ligieuses. Paris, 1891. 



what were the Christian exorcists like? But let us turn to 

the writings of the leading Neo-Platonists themselves, the 

only accurate mirror of their views. 

Plotinus/ who lived from about 204 to 270 A. D. and Plotinus 

on magic, 
is generally regarded as the founder of Neo-Platonism, was 

apparently less given to occult sciences than some of his 
successors.^ One of his charges against the Gnostics ^ is 
that they believe that they can move the higher and incor- 
poreal powers by writing incantations and by spoken words 
and various other vocal utterances, all which he censures as 
mere magic and sorcery. He also attacks their belief that 
diseases are demons and can be expelled by words. This 
wins them a following among the crowd who are wont to 
marvel at the powers of magicians, but Plotinus insists that 
diseases are due to natural causes.* Even he, however, ac- 
cepted incantations and the charms of sorcerers and 
magicians as valid, and accounted for their potency by the 
sympathy or love and hatred which he said existed between 
different objects in nature, which operates even at a dis- 

^ Plotini opera o»inia, Forphyrii spect. A noteworthy recent pub- 

libcr de znta Plotini, cum Marsilii lication is W. R. Inge, Tlie Philos- 

Ficini commentariis . . . ed D. ophy of Plotinus, 1918, 2 vols. 

Wyttenbach, G. H. Moser, and F. " H. F. Muller, Plotinische Stu- 

Creuzer, Oxford, 1835, 3 vols. dicn II, in Hermes, XLIX, 70-89, 

Page references in my citations argues that the philosophy of 

are to this edition, but I have also Plotinus was genuinely Hellenic 

employed: Plotini Enneadcs, ed. and free from oriental influence, 

R. Volkmann, Leipzig, 1883; Se- that all theurgy was hateful to 

lect Works of Plotinus translated him, and that he opposed Gnos- 

from the Greek with an Introduc- ticism and astrology. Miiller 

tion containing the substance of seems to me to overstate his case 

Porphyry's Life of Plotinus, by and to be too ready to exculpate 

Thomas Taylor, new edition with Plotinus, or perhaps rather Hel- 

preface and bibliography by G. R. lenism, from concurrence in the 

S. Mead, London, 1909; K. S. superstition of the time. 

Guthrie, The Philosophy of Ploti- ^ For Gnosticism see Chapter 15. 

mis, Philadelphia, 1896, and Ploti- *'Ennead, II, 9, 14. IWwTivovirpos 

nos, Complete Works. 4 vols., tov% Tvucttikovs, ed. G. A. Heigl, 

1918, English Translation. Where 1832; and Plotini De Virtutibus ct 

my citations give the number of Advcrsus Gnosticos libellos, ed. A. 

the chapter in addition to the Kirchhoff, 1847 ; are simply extracts 

Ennead and Book, these agree from the Enncads. See also C. 

\vith Volkmann's text and Guth- Schmidt, Plotin's Stellung cum 

rie's translation,— which, however, Gnosticismus u. kirchl. Christeti'- 

are not quite identical in this re- turn, 1900; in TU, X, 90 pp. 



The life 
of reason 
is alone 
free from 

by magic. 

tance, and which is an expression of one world-soul ani- 
mating the universe,^ 

Plotinus held further, however, that only the physical 
and irrational side of man's nature was affected by drugs 
and sorcery, just as "even demons are not impassive in their 
irrational part," ^ and so are to some extent subject to 
magic. But the rational soul may free itself from all influ- 
ence of magic.^ Moreover, remorselessly adds the clear- 
headed Plotinus with a burst of insight that may well be 
attributed to Hellenic genius, he who yields to the charms of 
love and family affection or seeks political power or aught 
else than Truth and true beauty, or even he who searches 
for beauty in inferior things ; he who is deceived by appear- 
ances, he who follows irrational inclinations, is as truly 
bewitched as if he were the victim of magic and goetia so- 
called. The life of reason is alone free from magic.'* 
Whereat one is tempted to paraphrase a remark of Aelian ^ 
and exclaim, "What do you think of that definition of 
magic, my dear anthropologists and sociologists and modern 
students of folk-lore?" 

This immunity of the true philosopher and sincere fol- 
lower of truth from magic received illustration, according 
to Porphyr}',® in the case of Plotinus himself, who suffered 
no harm from the magic arts which his enemy, Alexandrinus 
Olympius, directed against him. Instead the baleful de- 
fluxions from the stars which Olympius had tried to draw 
down upon Plotinus were turned upon himself. Porphyry 
also states '^ that Plotinus was aware at the time of the 
"sidereal enchantments" of Olympius against him. Inci- 
dentally the episode provides one more proof of the essential 
unity of astrology and magic. 

^Ennead, IV, 4, 40 (11, 805 or 
434). Tas dk yoTjreLas wws', v "rfj 
avuiraOilq., Kal tw ■Ke4>VKivai avn4>uvlau 
elvai ofjLolwv KalkvavrLujatv avofiolo^v, Kal 
rfj Twv bvvay.c(j3v tuv toXXoij' troiKiXiif. 
els if ^ct)oi> awTeXovuTwv. Ibid. 42 (II, 
808 or 436) . . .KalTlxvoLisKailaTpiiv 
Kal kvaoLduv aWo ctXXco rjuayKaadr] ira- 
paax^'i-v TL TTjs bvvkixeoi's ttis avrov. 
Ennead, IV, 9 (II, 891 or 479). 

el dk Kal kTTuioal Kal oXwj fiayelaL ffvvd- 
yovcn Kal avixiradtls TrSppudti' iroiov(Ti, 
wavTOi^ Toi hta i/'i'X^J nias. 

^ Enncad, IV, 4 (II, 810 or 437). 

'^Ennead, IV, 4, 43-44. 

* Ennead, IV, 4, 44. 

" See Chapter XII, pp. 323-4. 

* Vita Plotini, cap. 10. 
' Vita, cap. 10, 


Plotinus, indeed, was regarded by his admirers as Invoking 

divinely inspired, as another incident from the Life by demon of 

Porphyry will illustrate.^ An Egyptian priest had little diffi- Plotinus. 

culty in persuading Plotinus, who although of Roman 

parentage had been born in Egypt, to allow him to try to 

invoke his familiar demon. Plotinus was then teaching in 

Rome where he resided for twenty-six years, and the temple 

of Isis was the only pure place in the city which the priest 

could find for the ceremony. When the invocation had been 

duly performed, there appeared not a mere demon but a 

god. The apparition was not long enduring, however, nor 

would the priest permit them to question it, on the ground 

that one of the friends of Plotinus present had marred the 

success of the operation. This man had feared he might 

suffer some injury when the demon appeared and as a 

counter-charm had brought some birds which he held in his 

hands, apparently by the necks, for at the critical moment 

when the apparition appeared he suffocated them, whether 

from fright or from envy of Plotinus Porphyry declares 

himself unable to state. 

This practice of grasping birds by the necks in both The rite of 

hands is shown by a number of works of art to have been a birds. 

custom of great antiquity. We may see a winged Gorgon 

strangling a goose in either hand upon a plate of the seventh 

century B.C. from Rhodes now in the British Museum.^ A 

gold pendant of the ninth century B.C. from Aegina, now 

also in the British Museum, consists of a figure holding a 

water-bird by the neck in either hand, while from its thighs 

pairs of serpents issue on whose folds the birds stand with 

their bills touching the fangs of the snakes.^ There also is a 

figure of a winged goddess grasping two water-birds by the 

necks upon an ivory fibula excavated at Sparta.^ 

* Cap. 10. such as a figure holding up two 

^ A748. water-birds, in immediate con- 

' Shown in the article on nexion with IMycenaean gold pat- 

"Jewelry" in the eleventh edition terns." See further A. J. Evans 

of the Encyclopedia Britannica, in Journal of Hellenic Studies, 

Plate I, Figure 50. The article 1893, p. 197. 

says of the pendant, "Here we find *]. E. Harrison, Themis, Cam- 

the themes of archaic Greek art, bridge, 1912. p. 114, Fig. 20. 






The stars 
as signs. 

Porphyry also tells us in the Life that Plotinus devoted 
considerable attention to the stars and refuted in his writ- 
ings the unwarrantable claims of the casters of horoscopes.^ 
Such passages are found in the treatises on fate and on the 
soul, while one of his treatises is devoted entirely to the 
question, "Whether the stars effect anything?" ^ This was 
one of four treatises which Plotinus a little before his death 
sent to Porphyry, and which are regarded as rather inferior 
to those composed by him when in the prime of life. In the 
next century the astrologer, Julius Firmicus Maternus, re- 
gards Plotinus as an enemy of astrology and represents him 
as dying a horrible and loathsome death from gangrene.^ 

As a matter of fact the criticisms made by Plotinus 
were not necessarily destructive to the art of astrology, but 
rather suggested a series of amendments by which it might 
be made more compatible with a Platonic view of the uni- 
verse, deity, and human soul. These amendments also 
tended to meet Christian objections to the art. His criti- 
cisms were not new; Philo Judaeus had made similar ones 
over two centuries before.* But the great influence of 
Plotinus gave added emphasis to these criticisms. For in- 
stance, the point made by him several times that the motion 
of the stars "does not cause everything but signifies the 
future concerning each" ^ man and thing, is noted by 
Macrobius both in the Saturnalia ^ and the Dreamt of 
Scipio; "^ while in the twelfth century John of Salisbury, 
arguing against astrology, fears that its devotees will take 
refuge in the authority of Plotinus and say that they detract 

^ Vita, cap. 15. It will be noted 
that like some of the church 
fathers Plotinus attacked geneth- 
lialogy rather than astrology. Upoa- 
elx^ 8i ToZs fj.ev ivepl Tcbv acrrepajv ko- 
vdaiv ov Trdfu Tt /laOrjuaTiKcbs, rotj 8e 
ruv yepeOXidXoycov airoTtkeaTiKols a.Kpv- 
pkarepop. Kal4>o}pa(Tas tvs kwayyeKLas 
r6 kvixtyyvov eXeyx^tf iroWaxov Kal 
(tuv) kv rots avyyp&fxfjiaaiu ovk ioKPrjae. 

' Ennead II, 3, Ilepi tov el iroul tA, 
tarpa. Porphyry arranged his 
master's treatises in the form of 
six enneads of nine each and per- 

haps somewhat revised them at the 
same time. 

^ Mathescos libri VIII, ed. 
Kroll et Skutsch, Lipsiae, 1897. I, 
7, 14-22. 

*See below, pp. 353-4- 

^ Ennead II, 3 (p. 242), "On v 
T03V SlCtpuiv <t)opa (TrjfjLalvii irepl 
tKaarov to. ka6p.eva AXX' ohK avrri ir&vTa 
iroiei, ws Tois ttoXXoIj 5o|(if«Tai, cKpTjrai 
fikv irohrfpov tv aWois. See also En- 
nead III, i, and IV, 3-4. 

•I, 18. 

^Cao. 19. 


nothing from the Creator's power, since He established once 
for all an unalterable natural law and disposed all future 
events as He foresaw them. Thus the stars are merely His 

But let us see what Plotinus says himself rather than The divine 
what others took to be his meaning. Like Plato, who re- ^^^'■■^°" s- 
garded the stars as happy, divine, and eternal animals, Plo- 
tinus not only believes that the stars have souls but that 
their intellectual processes are far above the frailties of the 
human mind and nearer the omniscience of the world-soul. 
Memory, for example, is of no use to them,^ nor do they 
hear the prayers which men address to them.^ Plotinus 
often calls them gods. They are, however, parts of the uni- 
verse, subordinate to the world-soul, and they cannot alter 
the fundamental principles of the universe, nor deprive other 
beings of their individuality, although they are able to make 
other beings better or worse.* 

In his discussion of problems concerning the soul Plo- How do 


tinus says that "it is abundantly evident . . . that the mo- cause and 
tion of the heavens affects things on earth and not only in signify? 
bodies but also the dispositions of the soul," ^ and that each 
part of the heavens affects terrestrial and inferior objects. 
He does not, however, think that all this influence can be 
accounted for "exclusively by heat or cold," — perhaps a dig 
at Ptolemy's Tetrahihlos.^ He also objects to ascribing the 
crimes of men to the will of the stars or every human act 

^ Polycraticus, II, 19, (ed. C. C. agreed that they have senses, 

I. Webb, 1909, I, 112). Mr. Webb namely, sight and hearing," is 

(I, xxviii) holds that John of quite misleading, as caps. 40-42 

Salisbury "certainly did not have make evident. 

Plotinus," and derived some pas- * Ennead II, iii, 6 and 13 (249- 

sages from his works through 50). 

Macrobius and Augustine; but he ^ Ennead IV, iv, 31. on nev ovv 

is unable to state in what inter- 17 <f>opa. voitl . . . a.vaiJi^i<T0-nT-nTiJi% nlv 

mediate source John could have rd kirLyeta ov fxbvov toIs aco/^acnv dXXd 

found the passage now in ques- /cat rats r^s ^vxvs biaOkaeoL, Kal tC:v 

tion. It does not seem to reflect ntpdv eKaarov eis to. kTrlyua Kal 6Xwj 

Plotinus' doctrine very accurately. rd xdrw woiel, iroWaxv 8rj\ov. 

' Eiuicad IV, iv, 6 and 8. ^Idcm. Guthrie heads the pas- 

* Ibid.. 30. Guthrie's translation, sage, "Absurdity of Ptolemean 

"We have shown that memory is Astrology." See also Ennead, II, 

useless to the stars: we have iii, 1-5. 


to a sidereal decision,^ and to speaking of friendships and 
enmities as existing between the planets according as they 
are in this or that aspect towards one another.^ If then the 
admittedly vast influence of the stars cannot be satisfactorily 
accounted for either as material effects caused by them as 
bodies or as voluntary action taken by them, how is it to be 
explained ? Plotinus accounts for it by the relation of sym- 
pathy which exists between all parts of the universe, that 
single living animal, and by the fact that the universe ex- 
presses itself in the figures formed by the movements of the 
celestial bodies, which "exert what influence they do exert 
on things here below through contemplation of the intelli- 
gible world." ^ These figures, or constellations in the astro- 
logical sense, have other powers than those of the bodies 
which participate in them, just as many plants and stones 
*'among us" have marvelous occult powers for which heat 
and cold will not account.^ They both exert influence effec- 
tively and are signs of the future through their relation to 
the universal whole. In many things they are both causes 
and signs, in others they are signs only.^ 
Other For Plotinus, however, the universe is not a mechanical 

C3.11SCS 3.rid 

signs than ^^^ where but one force prevails, namely, that produced by 
the stars, qj. represented by the constellations. The universe is full of 
variety with countless different powers, and the whole would 
not be a living animal unless each living thing in it lived 
its own life, and unless life were latent even in inanimate 
objects. It is true that some powers are more effective 
than others, and that those of the sky are more so than 
those of earth, and that many things lie under their power. 
Nevertheless Plotinus sees in the reproduction of life and 
species in the universe a force independent of the stars. In 

^ Ennead II, iii, 6. dXXA yevofieva iroi.6Tr)ai Sia<}>6pois Kal 

^ Ennead II, iii, 4. \6yoLstiboTroLriBkvTaKai4>^(r€(j}s dwaixtws 

* Guthrie's translation, Ennead neraXaliovTa, olov Kal XLOcov 4>v<rtLs Kal 

IV, iv, 35. ti df) dpq. TL 6 i]\ios Kal to. ^orapcJiv kfepyeLaidavfiaaTaTroWaTrapt- 

&\\a acrrpa ets to. rfiSe, xpi) vonl^ew x'^^'''^'- 

aiiTop fj,h avu (iXkirovra tlvai. ^ Ennead IV, iv, 34. Kal Trotvaeis 

Idem. Kal kv Tols Trap' 77^111' eicri Kal arjp.aaia's iv iroWols AXXaxoO 5i 

iroXXat, &s ob dtpixa rj xj/vxpo. irapkxtTaL, ar]ixaaias iiovov. 


the generation of any animal, for example, the stars con- 
tribute something, but the species must follow that of its 
forebears.^ And after they have been produced or begot- 
ten, terrestrial beings add something of their own. Nor are 
the stars the sole signs of the future. Plotinus holds that 
"all things are full of signs," and that the sage can not mere- 
ly predict from stars or birds, but infer one thing from an- 
other by virtue of the harmony and sympathy existing be- 
tween all parts of the universe.^ 

Nor can the gods or stars be said to cause evil on earth. Stars not 
since their influence is affected by other forces which mingle of evil, 
with it. Like the earlier Jewish Platonist, Philo, Plotinus 
denies that the planets are the cause of evil or change their 
own natures from good to evil as they enter new signs of the 
zodiac or take up different positions in relation to one an- 
other. He argues that they are not changeable beings, that 
they would not willingly injure men, or, if it is contended 
that they are mere bodies and have no wills, he replies that 
then they can produce only corporeal effects. He then solves 
the problem of evil in the usual manner by ascribing it to 
matter, in which reason and the celestial force are received 
unevenly, as light is broken and refracted in passing through 

Plotinus repeats much the same line of argument in his Against 
book against the Gnostics, where he protests against "the a^^rology 
tragedy of terrors which they think exists in the spheres of of the 
the universe," * and the tyranny they ascribe to the heavenly 
bodies. His belief is that the celestial spheres are in per- 
fect harmony both with the universe as a whole and with our 
globe, completing the whole and constituting a great part of 
it, supplying beauty and order. And often they are to be re- 
garded as signs rather than causes of the future. Their 
natures are constant, but the sequence of events may be 
varied by chance circumstances, such as different hours of 

^ Ennead II, iii (p. 256). * Enncad, II, ix, 13. rrisTpaywblas 

Ibid. (pp. 250-1). Toiv <f>oi3€pu:v, COS oiovTai, a> rals rod 

"Ibid., II, iii (pp. 243-6, 254-5, Koauov ff<t>aiftai.s. 



Fate and 

of the atti- 
tude of 
Plotinus to 

nativities, place of residence, and the dispositions of indi- 
vidual souls. Amid all this diversity one must also expect 
both good and evil, but not on that account call nature or 
the stars either evil themselves or the cause of evil. 

As the allusion just made in the preceding paragraph to 
"the dispositions of individual souls" shows, Plotinus made 
a distinction between the extent of the control exercised by 
the stars over inanimate, animate, and rational beings. The 
stars signify all things in the sensible world but the soul is 
free unless it slips and is stained by the body and so comes 
under their control. Fate or the force of the stars is like 
a wind which shakes and tosses the ship of the body in 
which the soul makes its passage. Man as a part of the 
world does some things and suffers many things in accord- 
ance with destiny. Some men become slaves to this world 
and to external influences, as if they were bewitched. 
Others look to their inner souls and strive to free themselves 
from the sensible world and to rise above demonic nature 
and all fate of nativities and all necessity of this world, and 
to live in the intelligible world above. ^ 

Thus Plotinus arrives at practically what was to be the 
usual Christian position in the middle ages regarding the 
influence of the stars, maintaining the freedom of the human 
will and yet allowing a large field to astrological prediction. 
He is evidently more concerned to combat the notion that 
the stars cause evil or are to be feared as evil powers than 
he is to combat the belief in their influence and significations. 
His speaking of the stars both as signs and causes in a way 
doubles the possibility of prediction from them. If he at- 
tacked the language used by astrologers of the planets, and 
perhaps to a certain extent the technique of their art, he 
supported astrology by reconciling the existence of evil and 
of human freedom with a great influence of the stars and by 
his emphasis upon the importance of the figures made by the 

^The references for the state- III, iv (p. 521); IV, iv (p. 813); 

ments in this paragraph are in II, iii (p. 260) ; III, iv (p. 520) ; 

the order of their occurrence: IV, 3 (p. 71 : in these cases the 

Enncad, II, iii (pp. 257, 251-2) ; higher page-numbering is used. 


movements of the heavenly bodies above any purely physical 
effects of their bodies as such. Thus he reinforced the con- 
ception of occult virtue, always one of the chief pillars, if 
not the chief support, of occult science and magic. On the 
other hand, men were not likely to reform a language and 
technique sanctioned by as great an astronomer as Ptolemy 
merely because a Neo-Platonist questioned its propriety. 

Although Plotinus denied that diseases were due to de- Porphyry's 
mons, vve once heard him speak of "demonic nature," and J^H^^^ ^^ 
one of the Enneads discusses Each man's own demon. Here, 
however, the discussion is limited to the power presiding in 
each human soul, and nothing is said of magic. For the con- 
nection of demons with magic and for the art of theurgy we 
must turn to the writings of Porphyry and lamblichus, and 
especially to The Letter to Aneho of Porphyry, who lived 
from about 233 to 305, and the reply thereto of the master 
Abammon, a work which is otherwise known as Liber de 
mysteriis} The attribution of the latter work to lamblichus, 
who died about 330, is based upon an anonymous assertion 
prefixed to an ancient manuscript of Proclus and upon the 
fact that Proclus himself quotes a passage from the De mys- 
teriis as the words of lamblichus. This attribution has been 
questioned, but if not by lamblichus, the work seems to be 
at least by some disciple of his with similar views." Other 
works of lamblichus are largely philosophical and mathe- 
matical; among the chief works of Porphyry, apart from 
his literary work in connection with Plotinus, were his com- 
mentaries on Aristotle and fifteen books against the Chris- 

The Letter to Anebo inquires concerning the nature of Its main 
the gods, the demons, and the stars; asks for an explana- ^^§""^^t- 
tion of divination and astrology, of the power of names and 
incantations; and questions the employment of invocations 

^ Edited Venice, Aldine Press, lor's English translation, London, 

1497 and 15 16; Oxford, 1678; by 1821. 

G. Partliey, Berlin, 1857. In_ the * Carl Rasche, De lamblicho 

following quotations from it I libri qui inscribitur de mysteriis 

have usually adhered to T. Ta}^- auctore, Aschendorff, 191 1, 82 pp. 




and sacrifice. Other topics brought up are the rule of spirits 
over the world of nature, partitioned out among them for 
this purpose ; the divine inspiration or demoniacal possession 
of human beings ; and the occult sympathy between different 
things in the material universe. In especial the art of the- 
urgy, a word said to be used now for the first time by Por- 
phyry,^ is discussed. It may be roughly defined for the 
moment as a sort of pious necromancy or magical cult of the 
gods. Porphyry raises various objections to the procedure 
and logic of the theurgists, diviners, enchanters, and astrolo- 
gers, which lamblichus, as we shall henceforth call the au- 
thor of the De mysteriis as a matter of convenience if not 
of certainty, endeavors to answer, and to justify the art of 

We may first note the theory of demons which is elicited 
from lamblichus in response to Porphyry's trenchant and 
searching questions. The latter, declaring that ignorance and 
disingenuousness concerning divine natures are no less rep- 
rehensible than impiety and impurity, demands a scientific 
discussion of the gods as a holy and beneficial act. He asks 
why, if the divine power is infinite, indivisible, and incom- 
prehensible, different places and different parts of the body 
are allotted to different gods. Why, if the gods are pure in- 
tellects, they are represented as having passions, are wor- 
shiped with phallic ritual, and are tempted with invocations 
and sacred offerings? Why boastful speech and fantastic 
action are taken as indications of the divine presence; and 
why, if the gods dwell in the heavens, theurgists invoke only 
terrestrial and subterranean deities? How superior beings 
can be invoked with commands by their inferiors, why the 
Sun and Moon are threatened, why the man must be just 
and chaste who invokes spirits in order to secure unjust ends 
or gratify lust, and why the worshiper must abstain from 
animal food and not touch a corpse when sacrifices to the 
gods consist of the bodies of dead victims? Porphyry 

' Bouche-Leclercq, L'Astrologie grecque (1898), p. 599, citing Kroll, 
De oraculis Chaldaicis. 


wishes further an explanation of the various genera of gods, 
visible and invisible, corporeal and incorporeal, beneficent 
and malicious, aquatic and aerial. He wants to know 
whether the stars are not gods, how gods differ from demons, 
and what the distinction is between souls and heroes. 

lamblichus in reply states that as heroes are elevated Orders of 
above souls, so demons are inferior and subservient to the belngg,^ 
gods and translate the infinite, ineffable, and invisible divine 
transcendent goodness into terms of visible forms, energy, 
and reason.^ He further distinguishes "the etherial, empy- 
rean, and celestial gods," and angels, archangels, and ar- 
chons.^ As for corporeal, visible, aerial, and aquatic gods, 
he affirms that the gods have no bodies and no particular 
allotments of space, but that natural objects participate in 
or are related to the gods etherially or aerially or aquatically, 
each according to its nature.^ "The celestial divinities," for 
example, "are not comprehended by bodies but contain bodies 
in their divine lives and energies. They are not themselves 
converted to body, but they have a body which is converted 
to its divine cause, and that body does not impede their 
intellectual and incorporeal perfection." ^ lamblichus denies 
that there are any maleficent gods, saying that "it is much 
better to acknowledge our inability to explain the occurrence 
of evil than to admit anything impossible and false concern- 
ings the gods." ^ But he admits the existence of both good 
and evil demons and makes of the latter a convenient scape- 
goat upon whom to saddle any inconsistencies or impurities 
in religious rites and magical ceremony. 

lamblichus does not, however, hold the view of Apuleius Nature of 
that demons are subject to passions. They are impassive ^"^°"s. 
and incapable of suffering.^ He scorns the notion that even 
the worst demons can be allured by the vapors of animal 
sacrifice or that petty mortals can supply such beings with 
anything;'^ it is rather in the consumption of foul matter 

* De mysieriis, I, 5. ° IV, 6. 

*VIII, 2. n, 10. 

'I, 9. ''V, 10-12. 
*I, 17 (Taylor's translation). 


by pure fire in the act of sacrifice that they take delight. 
Demons are not, however, like the gods entirely separated 
from bodies. The world is divided up into prefectures 
among them and they are more or less inseparable from and 
identified with the natural objects which they govern.^ Thus 
they may serve to enmesh the soul in the bonds of matter 
and of fate, and to afflict the body with disease.^ Also the 
evil demons "are surrounded by certain noxious, blood- 
devouring, and fierce wild beasts," probably of the type of 
vampires and empousas.^ lamblichus further holds that there 
is a class of demons who are without judgment and reason, 
each of whom has some one function to perform and is not 
adapted to do anything else,* Such demons or forces in 
nature men may well address as superiors in invoking them, 
since they are superior to men in their one special function ; 
but when they have once been invoked, man as a rational 
being may also well issue commands to them as his irra- 
tional inferiors.^ 

The art of lamblichus also undertakes the defense of theurgy and 
theurgy. . 

carefully distinguishes it from magic, as we shall soon see. 

It is also different from science, since it does not merely em- 
ploy the physical forces of the natural universe,^ and from 
philosophy, since its ineffable works are beyond the reach 
of mere intelligence, and those who merely philosophize 
theoretically cannot hope for a theurgic union or communion 
with the gods."^ Even theurgists cannot as a rule endure the 
light of spiritual beings higher than heroes, demons, and 
angels,* and it is an exceedingly rare occurrence for one of 
them to be united with the supramundane gods.^ This 
theurgy, or "the art of divine works," operates by means 
of "arcane signatures" and "the power of inexplicable sym- 
bols." ^^ It is thus that lamblichus explains away most of 
the details in sacred rites and sacrifices to which Porphyry 

' I, 20. ' IV, 10. 

MI, 6. 'II, II. 

"11,7. '11,3. 

MV, I. 'V, 20. 

MV. 2. "I, 9; VI, 6; II, II. 


had objected as obscene or material and as implying that the 
gods themselves were passive and passionate. They are 
mystic symbols, "consecrated from eternity'' for some hid- 
den reason "which is more excellent than reason." ^ Occult 
virtues indeed! We have already heard lamblichus state 
that natural objects participate in or are related to the gods 
etherially or aerially or aquatically; theurgists therefore 
quite properly employ in their art certain stones, herbs, aro- 
matics, and sacred animals.^ By employing such potent sym- 
bols mere man takes on such a sacred character himself that 
he is able to command many spiritual powers.^ 

Invocations and prayers are also much used in theurgical Invoca- 
operations. But such invocations do not draw down the ^^e power 
impassive and pure gods to this world; rather they purify °f words, 
those who employ them from their passions and impurity 
and exalt them to union with the pure and the divine.* 
These prayers are symbolic, too. They do not appeal to 
human passions or reason, "for they are perfectly unknown 
and arcane and are alone known to the God whom they in- 
voke." ^ In another passage ^ lamblichus replies to Por- 
phyry's objection that such prayers are often composed of 
meaningless words and names without signification by de- 
claring — somewhat inconsistently with his previous asser- 
tion that these invocations are "perfectly unknown" — that 
some of the names "which we can scientifically analyze" 
comprehend "the whole divine essence, power and order." 
Moreover, if translated into another language, they do not 
have exactly the same meaning, and even if they do, they 
no longer retain the same power as in the original tongue. 
We shall meet a similar passage concerning the power of 
words and divine names in the church father Origen who 
lived earlier in the third century than Porphyry and lam- 
blichus. lamblichus concludes that "it is necessary that 

'I, II. "I, 12. 

ay 2^ *I, 15; III, 24 (Taylor's trans- 

^' ^^- lation). 
"IV. 2. "VII, 4. 



Magic a 





abuse of 

ancient prayers . . . should be preserved invariably the 
same." ^ 

Neither Porphyry nor lamblichus, I believe, employs the 
word, "magic," but they both often allude to its practitioners 
and methods by such expressions as "jugglers" and "enchant- 
ers" or by contrasting what is done "artificially" or by 
means of art with theurgical operations. In the last case 
the distinction is between what on the one hand is regarded 
as a divine mystery or revelation and what on the other 
hand is looked upon as a mere human art and contrivance. 
And "nothing . . . which is fashioned by human art is 
genuine and pure." ^ Christian writers drew a like distinc- 
tion between prophecy or miracle and divination or magic. 
Sometimes, however, lamblichus speaks of theurgy itself 
as an art, an involuntary admission of the close resemblance 
between its methods and those of magic. We are also told 
that if the theurgist makes a slip in his procedure, he there- 
by reduces it to the level of magic.^ 

Another distinction is that theurgy aims at communion 
with the gods while magic has to do rather with "the physi- 
cal or corporeal powers of the universe." ^ Both Porphyry 
and lamblichus believed that harmony, sympathy, and mutual 
attraction existed between the various objects in the uni- 
verse, which lamblichus asserted was one animal.^ Thus it 
is possible for man to draw distant things to himself or to 
unite them to, or separate them from, one another.^ But 
art may also use this force of sympathy between objects in 
an extreme and unseemly manner, and this disorderly forc- 
ing of nature, we are left to infer, constitutes an essential 
feature of m.agic, whose procedure is not truly natural or 

Magic not only disorders the law and harmony, and makes 
a perverse and contrary use of natural forces. Its practi- 
tioners are also represented as aiming at evil ends and as 

VII, 5. 
' III, 29. 
•II. 10. 

*IV, 10. 

'IV, 12. 

'IV, 3. 


themselves of evil character.^ They may try by their illicit 
and impure procedure to have intercourse with the gods or 
with pure spirits, but they are unable to accomplish this. All 
that they succeed in doing is to secure the alliance of evil 
demons by associating with whom they become more de- 
praved than ever. Such wicked demons may pose as angels 
of light by requiring that those who invoke them should 
be just or chaste, but afterwards they show their true colors 
by assisting in crimes and the gratification of lusts. ^ It is 
they, too, who assuming the guise of superior spirits are 
responsible for the boastful and arrogant utterances of 
which Porphyry complained in persons supposed to be di- 
vinely inspired.^ 

Finally magic is unstable and fantastic. "The imagina- Its deceit 
tions artificially produced by enchantment" are not real ob- ^ijj.y_ 
jects. Those who foretell the future by "standing on char- 
acters" are no theurgists, but employ a superficial, false, and 
deceptive procedure which can attract only evil demons.* 
These demons are themselves deceitful and produce "fic- 
titious images." ^ Porphyry in the Letter to Aneho also al- 
luded to the frauds of "jugglers." Although the attitude 
both of Porphyry and lamblichus is thus professedly unfa- 
vorable to the magic arts, we find that one of lamblichus's 
disciples, named Sopater, was executed under Constantine on 
a charge of having charmed the winds.® 

How is divination to be placed in reference to magic and Porphyry 
theurgy ? Porphyry had inquired concerning various meth- "" divina- 
ods of divination: in sleep, in trances, and when fully con- tion. 
scious; in ecstasy, in disease, and in states of mental aber- 
ration or enchantment. He mentioned divination on hear- 
ing drums and cymbals, by drinking water and other potions, 
by inhaling vapor ; divination in darkness, in a wall, in the 
open air or in the sunlight; by observing entrails or the 
flight of birds or the motion of the stars, or even by means 

'IV, 10; III, 31. 'II, 10. 

^ IV, 7. * E. S. Bouchier, Syria as a 

' II, 10. Roman Province, Oxford, 1916, 

*VI, 5; III, 25; III, 13. p. 231. 


of meal. Yet other modes of determining the future which 
he hsts are by characters, images, incantations, and invoca- 
tions, with which the use of stones and herbs is often com- 
bined. These details make it evident how impossible it is 
to draw any dividing line between the methods of magic and 
divination, and Porphyry himself states that those who in- 
voke the gods concerning the future not only "have about 
them stones and herbs," but are able to bind and to free 
from bonds, to open closed doors, and to change men's in- 
tentions. Among the virtues of parts of animals mentioned 
in his treatise upon abstinence from animal food are the 
powers of divination which may be obtained by eating the 
heart of a hawk or crow.-"- 
lamblichus Porphyry states that all diviners attribute their predic- 
tion.^^*^^' tions to gods or demons, but that he wonders if foreknowl- 
edge may not be a power of the human soul or perhaps 
accountable for by the sympathy which exists between differ- 
ent parts of the universe. lamblichus holds, however, that 
divination is neither a human art nor the work of nature 
but of divine origin.^ He perhaps regards it as little more 
than a branch of theurgy. He distinguishes between human 
dreams which are sometimes true, sometimes false, and 
dreams and visions divinely sent.^ If one is able to predict 
the future by drinking water, it is because the water has been 
divinely illuminated.* That we can predict when the mind 
is diseased and disordered, and that stupid or simple-minded 
men are often better able to prophesy than the wise and 
learned, are for him but further proofs that foreknowledge 
is a divine gift and not a human science, while divination 
by such means as rods, pebbles, grains of corn and wheat 
simply excites the more his pious admiration at the great- 
ness of divine power.^ He disapproves of divination by 
standing on characters,^ but sees no reason why divination 
in darkness, in a wall, or in sunlight, or by potions and in- 
cantations, may not be divinely directed. He will not, how- 

^De absHnentia, II, 48. *III, 11. 

Mil, I, 10. "Ill, 24; III, 17. 

•Ill, 2-3. "Ill, 14. 


ever, connect the disordered imaginations excited by dis- 
ease with divine presentiments.^ From true divination he 
also separates the "natural prescience" of certain animals 
M^hose acuteness of sense or occult sympathy with other 
parts and forces of nature enables them to perceive some com- 
ing events before men do. Their power resembles proph- 
ecy, "yet falls short of it in stability and truth." ^ Augury 
is an art whose conjectures have great probability, but they 
are based upon divine signs or portents effected in nature 
by the agency of demons.^ 

The stars are on a totally different plane from the other Are 
substances employed in divination. To Porphyry's ques- lods?^^^ 
tion whether they are not gods lamblichus is not content to 
reply that the celestial divinities comprehend these heav- 
enly bodies and that the bodies in no way impede "their in- 
tellectual and incorporeal perfection." ^ He must needs go 
on to argue that the stars themselves, as simple indivisible 
bodies, unchanging in quality and uniform in movement, 
closely approach to "the incorporeal essence of the gods." 
He then triumphantly if illogically concludes, "Thus there- 
fore the visible celestials are all of them gods and after a 
certain manner incorporeal." We may add the opinion of 
Chaeremon and others, noted by Porphyry, that the only 
gods were the physical ones of the Egyptians and the planets, 
signs of the zodiac, decans, and horoscope; all religious 
myths were explained by Chaeremon as astrological alle- 

Porphyry objected that those who thus reduce religion is there 
to astrology submit everything to fate and leave the human ^^^"^l °^ ; 
soul no freedom, and furthermore that in any case astrology 
is an unattainable science. lamblichus defends it against 
these objections, insisting that the universe is divided under 
the rule of planets, signs, and decans ; ^ that the Egyptians 

*III, 25. Although, as stated Mil, 26. 

above, one may be divinely in- ' III, 15. 

spired while diseased. But there ' I, 17. 

is no causal connection between "VIII, 4. 
the two. 






cal images. 

do not make everything physical but ascribe two souls to 
man, one of which obeys the revolutions of the stars, while 
the other is intellectual and free ; ^ and that there is a sys- 
tematic art of astrology based on divine revelation and the 
long observations of the Chaldeans, although like any other 
science it may at times degenerate and become contaminated 
by error.^ lamblichus further regards as ridiculous the con- 
tention of those "who ascribe depravity to the celestial bodies 
because their participants sometimes produce evil." ^ In 
the brief separate treatise, De fato,'^ he again holds that all 
things are bound by the indissoluble chain of necessity which 
men call fate, but that the gods can loose the bonds of fate, 
and that the human mind, too, has power to rise above na- 
ture, unite with the gods, and enjoy eternal life. 

Whether Porphyry in his other extant works evidences 
a belief in astrology or not, and whether he wrote an Intro- 
duction to the Tetrabiblos or astrological handbook of Ptol- 
emy, has been disputed.^ This Introduction ascribed to 
Porphyry was much cited by subsequent astrologers ® and 
was printed in 1559 together with a much longer anonymous 
commentary on the Tetrabiblos which some ascribe to Proc- 

Towards astrological images at least. Porphyry shows 
himself in the Letter to Anebo more favorable than lam- 
blichus, saying, "Nor are the artificers of efficacious images 
to be despised, for they observe the motion of celestial 
bodies." lamblichus, on the other hand, rather grudgingly 
admits that "the image-making art attracts a certain very 
obscure genesiurgic portion from the celestial effluxions." ^ 
He seems to have the same feeling against images as against 

'VIII, 6. 
'IX, 3-4. 
•I, 18. 

* lamblichus. In Nicomachi 
Geraseni arithmeticam introduc- 
tionem et De fato, published by 
Tennulius, Deventer and Arnheim, 

"Zeller, Philos. d. Gr., Ill, 2, 2, 
p. 608. cites passages to show 

Porphyry's leanings towards as- 
trology; but F. Boll, Studien ilber 
Claudius Ptolemaeus, 1 15-17, and 
Bouche-L e c 1 e r c q , L'Astrologie 
grccque, 601-602, are inclined to 
the opposite view. 

" CCAG, passim. 

' Ed. Hieronymus Wolf, Basel, 
1559, Greek and Latin. 

« III. 28. 




characters, perhaps regarding both as bordering upon idol- 

Plotinus, Porphyry, and lambHchus were all given to 
number mysticism. The sixth book of the sixth Ennead is 
entirely devoted to this subject, while Porphyry and lam- 
blichus both wrote Lives of Pythagoras and treatises upon 
his doctrine of number. 

Other works by Porphyry than the Letter to Anebo 
axe cited or quoted a good deal by Eusebius in Praeparatio 
evangeiica, especially his Hept r^s e/c \o'yloiv 4)Ckoao4)las , but 
the extracts are made for Eusebius's own purposes, which 
are to discredit pagan religion, and neither express Por- 
phyry's complete thought nor probably even tend to prove 
his original point. Besides showing that Porphyry was in- 
consistent in distinguishing the different victims to be sac- 
rificed to terrestrial and subterranean, aerial, celestial, and 
sea gods in the above-mentioned work, when in his De ab- 
stinentia a rebus animatis he held that beings who delighted 
in animal sacrifice were no gods but mere demons, Eusebius 
quotes him a good deal to show that the pagan gods were 
nothing but demons, that they themselves might be called 
magicians and astrologers, that they loved characters, and 
that they made their predictions of the future not from their 
own foreknowledge but from the stars by the art of as- 
trology, and that like men they could not even always read 
the decrees of the stars aright. The belief is also men- 
tioned that the fate foretold from the stars may be avoided 
by resort to magic.^ 

The Emperor Julian was an enthusiastic follower of lam- 
blichus whom he praises ^ in his Hymn to the Sovereign 
Sun delivered at the Saturnalia of 361 A. D. He also de- 
scribes "the blessed theurgists" as able to comprehend un- 
speakable mysteries which are hidden from the crowd, 
such as Julian the Chaldean prophesied concerning the god 


as reported 
by Euse- 



Julian on 




' III, 29. 

* Eusebius, Praep. evang., IV, 6- 
15i 23; V, 6, II, 14-15; VI, I, 4-5; 

etc., in Migne, PG, XXI. _ 

^ Loeb Library edition 
Julian's works, I, 398, 412, 433. 



of the seven rays.^ The emperor tells us that from his youth 
he was regarded as over-curious {irepLepyoTepov, a word 
which almost implies the practice of magic) and as a di- 
viner by the stars {aaTpbuavTiv). His Hymn to the Sun con- 
tains a good deal of astrological detail, speaks of the uni- 
verse as eternal and divine, and regards planets, signs, and 
decans as "the visible gods." In short, "there is in the 
heavens a great multitude of gods." - The Sun, however, 
is superior to the other planets, and as Aristotle has pointed 
out "makes the simplest movement of all the heavenly bodies 
that travel in a direction opposite to the whole." ^ The Sun 
is also the link between the visible universe and the intel- 
ligible world, and Julian infers from his middle station 
among the planets that he is also king among the intellec- 
tual gods.* For behind his visible self is the great Invisible. 
He frees our souls entirely from the power of "Genesis," 
or the force of the stars exercised at nativity, and lifts them 
to the world of the pure intellect.^ 

Julian believed in almost every form of pagan divina- 
tion as well as in astrology. To the oracles of Apollo he as- 
cribed the civilizing of the greater part of the world through 
the foundation of Greek colonies and the revelation of re- 
ligious and political law.^ The historian Ammianus Mar- 
cellinus '^ tells us that Julian was continually inspecting en- 
trails of victims and interpreting dreams and omens, and 
that he even proposed to re-open a prophetic fountain whose 
predictions were supposed to have enabled Hadrian to be- 
come emperor, after which that emperor blocked it up from 
fear that someone else might supplant him through its instru- 
mentality. In another passage ^ he defends Julian from the 
charge of magic, saying, "Inasmuch as malicious persons 
have attributed the use of evil arts to learn the future to 
this ruler who was a learned inquirer into all branches of 
knowledge, we shall briefly indicate how a wise man is able 

* I, 482, 498. '1,368. 

' I, 405. I' 419. .. „ 

=•1:374-75. ;?$"'.^"' ^• 

M, 366-67. "XXI, 1. 7. 


to acquire this by no means trivial variety of learning. The 
spirit behind all the elements, seeing that it is incessantly 
and everywhere active in the prophetic movement of peren- 
nial bodies, bestows upon us the gift of divination by the 
different arts which we employ; and the forces of nature, 
propitiated by varied rites, as from exhaustless springs pro- 
vide mankind with prophetic utterances." 

Ammianus thus regards the arts of divination as serious Scientific 
sciences based upon natural forces, although of course in divmation. 
the characteristic Neo-Platonic way of thinking he confuses 
the spiritual and physical and substitutes propitiatory rites 
for scientific experiments. His phrase, "the prophetic move- 
ment of perennial bodies" almost certainly means the stars 
and shows his belief in astrology. In another passage ^ he 
indicates the widespread trust in astrology among the Ro- 
man nobles of his time, the later fourth century, by saying 
that even those "who deny that there are superior powers 
in the sky," nevertheless think it imprudent to appear in 
public or dine or bathe without having first consulted an 
almanac as to the whereabouts of Mercury or the exact posi- 
tion of the moon in Cancer, The passage is satirical, no 
doubt, but Ammianus probably objects quite as much to 
their disbelief in superior powers in the sky as he does to 
the excess of their superstition. That astrology and divin- 
ation may be studied scientifically he again indicates in a 
description of learning at Alexandria. Besides praising the 
medical training to be had there, and mentioning the study 
of geometry, music, astronomy, and arithmetic, he says, 
"In addition to these subjects they cultivate the science 
which reveals the ways of the fates." ^ 

lamblichus's account of theurgy is repeated in more con- Proclus on 
densed form by Proclus (412-485) in a brief treatise or ^ ^"^sy- 
fragment which is extant only in its Latin translation by 
the Florentine humanist Ficinus, entitled De sacrificio et 
inagiaJ Neither magic nor theurgy, however, is mentioned 

* XXVIII, iv, 24. 1497, along with the De mysteriis, 

^XXII, xvi, 17-18. and other works edited or com- 

' Published at Venice (Aldine), posed by Marsilius Ficinus. See 




account of 
magic bor- 
rowed by 

by name in the Latin text. Proclus states that the priests 
of old built up their sacred science by observing the sym- 
pathy existing between natural objects and by arguing from 
manifest to occult powers. They saw how things on earth 
were associated with things in the heavens and further dis- 
covered how to bring down divine virtue to this lower world 
by the force of likeness which binds things together. Pro- 
clus gives several examples of plants, stones, and animals 
which evidence such association. The cock, for instance, is 
reverenced by the lion because both are under the same 
planet, the sun, but the cock even more so than the lion. 
Therefore demons who appear with the heads of lions 
(leonina front e) vanish suddenly at the sight of a cock un- 
less they chance to be demons of the solar order. After 
thus indicating the importance of astrology as well as occult 
virtue in theurgy or magic, Proclus tells how demons are in- 
voked. Sometimes a single herb or stone "suffices for the 
divine work" ; sometimes several substances and rites must 
be combined "to summon that divinity." When they had 
secured the presence of the demons, the priests proceeded, 
partly under the instruction of the demons and partly by 
their own industrious interpretation of symbols, to a study 
of the gods. "Finally, leaving behind natural objects and 
forces and even to a great extent the demons, they won 
communion with the gods." 

Despite the writings of Porphyry and other Neo-Platon- 
ists against Christianity, much use was made by Christian 
theologians of the fourth and fifth centuries of the Neo- 
Platonic accounts of magic, astrology, and divination, es- 
pecially of Porphyry's Letter to Anebo. Eusebius in his 
Praeparatio Evangelica -^ made large extracts from it on 
these themes and also from Porphyry's work on the Chal- 
dean oracles. Augustine in The City of God ^ accepted Por- 

Pars II, Apologetica, Praep. 
Evang., IV, 22; V, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14; 
VI, I, 4; XIV, 10 (Migne, Patro- 
logia Gracca, vol. 21). 

also Prodi Opera, ed. Cousin, 
Paris, 1820-1827, III, 278; and 
Kroll, Analecta Graeca, Greiss- 
wald, 1901, where a Greek trans- 
lation accompanies the Latin text. 
^ Euscbii Caesariemis Opera, 

*X, 9-10. 


phyry as an authority on the subjects of theurgy and magic. 
On the other hand, we do not find the Christian writers re- 
peating the attitude of Plotinus that the Hfe of reason is 
alone free from magic, except as they substitute the word 
"Christianity" for "the Hfe of reason." 

The Neo-Platonists showed some interest in alchemy Neo- 
as well as in theurgy and astrology. Berthelot published in ^^^j 
his Collection dcs Alchimistes Grecs "a little tract of posi- alchemy, 
tive chemistry" which is extant under the name of lam- 
blichus ; and Proclus treated of the relations between the 
metals and planets and the generation of the metals under 
the influence of the stars. ^ Of Synesius, who was both a 
Neo-Platonist and a Christian bishop, and who seems to 
have written works of alchemy, we shall treat in a later 

* Berthelot (1889), p. ix. 



Aelian On the Nature of Animals — General character of the work 
— Its hodge-podge of unclassified detail — Solinus in the middle ages — 
His date — General character of his work; its relation to Pliny — Animals 
and gems — Occult medicine — Democritus and Zoroaster not regarded 
as magicians — Some bits of astrology — Alexander the Great — The 
Hieroglyphics of Horapollo — Marvels of animals — Animals and as- 
trology — The cynocephalus — Horapollo the cosmopolitan. 

From mystic and theurgic compositions we return to works 
of the declining Roman Empire which deal more directly 
with nature but, it must be confessed, in a manner somewhat 
fantastic. About the beginning of the third century, Aelian 
of Praeneste, who is included by Philostratus in his Lives 
of the Sophists, wrote On the Nature of Animals} Its 
seventeen books, written in Greek, which Aelian used flu- 
ently despite his Latin birth, are believed to have reached 
us partly in interpolated form through two families of 
manuscripts, of which the older and less interpolated text 
is found in a thirteenth century manuscript at Paris and a 
somewhat earlier Vatican codex.^ A number of its chap- 
ters are similar to and perhaps borrowed from Pliny's 
Natural History; at any rate they are commonplaces of an- 
cient science ; but the work also has a marked individuality. 
Parallels have also been noted between this work and the 
later Hexaemeron of the church father Basil. Aelian was 
much cited in Byzantine literature and learning, and if he 
was not directly used in the Latin west, at least the attitude 

* Ilepi fciwv IStoTT/Tos. I have used henceforth be cited without title 
both the editio princeps by Gesner, in the notes. 
Zurich, 1556, and the critical edi- 
tion by R. Hercher, Paris, 1858, * See PW, and Christ, Gesch. d. 
and Teubner, 1864. The work will griech. Litt., for further details. 



toward animals which he displays and his selection of mate- 
rial concerning them are as apt precursors of medieval 
Latin as of medieval Greek scientific literature. 

In preface and epilogue Aelian himself adequately indi- General 
cates the character of his work. He is impressed by the of^^^g ^^ 
customs and characteristics of animals, and marvels at their work, 
wisdom and native shrewdness, their justice and modesty, 
their affection and piety, which should put human beings 
to blush. Thus Aelian's work is marked by that tendency 
which runs through ancient and medieval literature to ad- 
mire actions in the irrational brutes which seem to indicate 
almost human intelligence and virtue on their part, and to 
moralize therefrom at the expense of human beings. An- 
other striking feature of his work is its utterly whimsical 
and haphazard order. He mentions things simply as they 
happen to occur to him. This fact, too, he recognizes, but 
refuses to apologize for, stating that it suits him, if it does 
not suit anyone else, and that he regards a mixed-up order 
as more motley, variegated, and pleasing. Not only does 
he attempt no classification whatever of his animals and 
mention snakes and quadrupeds and birds in the same breath ; 
he also does not complete the treatment of a given animal in 
one passage but may scatter detached items about it through- 
out his work. There is, for instance, probably at least one 
chapter concerning elephants in each of his seventeen books. 

It would therefore be absurd for us to attempt any logi- its hodge- 
cal arrangement in discussing his contents; we may do jus- P^'^p 9^ 
tice to him most adequately by adopting his own lack of fied detail, 
method and noting a few items and topics taken more or less 
at random from his work. Ants never go out in the new 
moon. Yet they neither gaze at the sky, nor count the num- 
ber of days on their fingers, like the learned Babylonians and 
Chaldeans, but have this marvelous gift from nature.^ In 
sexual intercourse the female viper conceives through the 
mouth and bites off the head of the male; afterwards her 
young gnaw their way out of her vitals. "What have your 

^ I, 22. 


Oresteses and Alcmaeons to say to that, my dear trage- 
dians?" ^ Doves put laurel boughs in their nests to guard 
against fascination and the evil eye, and the hoopoe simi- 
larly employs ablavrov or KaWlrpLxov as an amulet;^ and 
other unreasoning animals guard against sorcery by some 
mystic and marvelous natural power. Another chapter 
treats of divinations from the crow and how hairs are dyed 
black with its eggs.^ Others tell us of the generation of 
serpents from the marrow of a dead man's spine,* and of 
venomous women like Medea and Circe who are worse than 
the asp with its incurable sting, since they kill by mere 
touch. ^ 

We go on to read of swift little beasts called Pyrigoni 
who are generated from fire and live in it, of salamanders 
who extinguish flames, of the remedies used by the tortoise 
against snakes, of the chastity of doves whose marriages 
never result in divorce, and of the incontinence of the par- 
tridge.® Also of the jealousies of certain animals like the 
stag which hides its right horn, the lizard who devours its 
cast-off skin, and the mare who eats the hippomanes from 
its colt, lest men obtain these precious substances,'^ Of the 
care taken by storks, herons, and pelicans of their aged 
parents.^ How the swallow by the virtue of an herb gives 
sight to its young who are born blind, and how a hoopoe 
found an herb whose virtue dissolved the mud with which 
the caretaker of a building had plugged up the hole in the 
wall which it used for its nest.^ How the lion and basilisk 
fear the cock, and of a lake without fish in a place where 
the cocks do not crow.^° 

How elephants venerate the waxing moon ; how the wea- 
sel eats rue when about to fight the snake; and of the jeal- 

* I, 24. " I, 54. 

=■ I, 35. D. W. Thompson, Glos- " II, 2 and 31 ; III, 5. 
sary of Greek Birds, p. 57, notes 'III, 17. 
that in the Birds of Aristophanes, 'III, 23 and 25. 
where the hoopoe appears, "the 'III, 26; in I, 45, the wood- 
mysterious root in verse 654 is the pecker similarly employs the vir- 
magical &SLavTov" tue of an herb to remove a stone 

■ I, 48. blocking the entrance to its nest. 

* I, 52. " III, 32 and 38. 


ousy of the hedge-hog and lynx, the latter concealing his 
precious urine, the other watering his own hide when he is 
captured in order to spoil it.-^ How the Indians fight grif- 
fins when collecting gold.^ How the presence of a cock aids 
a woman's delivery.^ Of unnamed beasts in Libya who 
know how to count and leave an eleventh part of their prey 
untouched.* That the sea dragon is easily captured with 
the left hand but not with the right.^ Dragons know the 
force of herbs and cure themselves with some and increase 
their venom with others.® How dogs, cows, and other ani- 
mals sense a famine or plague be forehand. ''^ How the 
Egyptians by their magic charm birds from the sky and 
snakes from their holes. ^ When it rains in Eg>'pt, mice are 
born from the small drops and plague the country. Traps 
and fences and ditches are of no avail against them, as they 
can leap over trenches and walls. Consequently the Egyp- 
tians are forced to pray God to end the calamity,^ — an in- 
teresting variant on the Old Testament account of the 
plagues of Egypt. 

In dogs there exists a certain dialectical faculty of ratioc- 
ination.^^ The weather may be predicted from birds, quad- 
rupeds, and flies.^^ The she-goat can cure suffusion of its 
eyes.^- Eagles drop tortoises on rocks to break their shells 
and the bald-headed poet Aeschylus met his death by having 
his pate mistaken thus for a smooth round stone.^^ Some 
predict the future by birds, others by entrails, or by grains, 
sieves, and cheeses; the Lycians practice divination by fish.^* 
A stork whom a widow of Tarentum helped when it was 
too young to fly brought her a luminous precious stone the 
following year.^^ Solon did not have to enact a law ordering 
'IV, 10, 14, 17. "VII, 14. 

WYr' ^^- "VII, 16. The story is also 

,}V, 29. found in Pliny NH, X, 3, where 

5 \j: ' 53- it is added that Aeschylus re- 

g V> 2>7- mained cut-doors that day, be- 

, y {;' 4- cause an oracle predicted that he 

g^}' 10. would be killed by the fall of a 

^ VI, 22' (tortoise's) house. 

"Vi,^59. "VIII, 5. 

"VII, 7-8. "VIII, 22. 


children to support their aged parents in the case of lions, 
whose cubs are taught by nature filial piety toward their 
elders.^ Only the horn of the Scythian ass can hold the 
water of the Arcadian river Styx; Alexander the Great sent 
a sample of it to Delphi with some accompanying verses 
which Aelian quotes.^ In Epirus dragons sacred to Apollo 
are employed in divination, and in the Lavinian Grove drag- 
ons spit out again the frumenty offered them by unchaste 
virgins.^ By flying beneath it an eagle saved the life of its 
young one who had been thrown down from a tower.* Dif- 
ferent fish eat different sea herbs.^ There are fish who 
live in boiling water.® There are scattered mentions of the 
marvels of India throughout Aelian' s work, and in his six- 
teenth book the first fourteen chapters are almost exclu- 
sively concerned with the animals of that land. 
Solinus A well-known work in the middle ages dating from the 

middle period of the Roman Empire was the Collectanea rerum 
ages. memorabilium or Polyhistor of Solinus. Mommsen's edi- 

tion lists 153 manuscripts from 32 places,'^ and we shall find 
many citations of Solinus in our later medieval authors. 
Martianus Capella and Isidore were the first to make exten- 
sive use of his work. In the thirteenth century Albertus 
Magnus had little respect for Solinus as an authority and 
expressed more than once the quite accurate opinion that 
his work was full of lies. Nevertheless copies of it con- 
tinued to abound in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, 
and by 1554 five printed editions had appeared. "From it 
directly come most of the fables in works of object so dif- 
ferent as those of Dicuil, Isidore, Capella, and Priscian." ^ 
His date. The first extant author to make use of Solinus is Augus- 

tine in The City of God, while he is first named in the Gen- 
ealogus of 455 A. D. None of the manuscripts of the work 

^IX, I. rum memorabilium iterum recen- 

'X, 40. suit Th. Mommsen, Berlin, 189S, 

' XI, 2 and 16. pp. xxxi-li. Beazley, Dawn of 

*XII, 21. Modern Geography, I, 520-2, lists 

• XIII, 3. 152 MSS. 

* XIV, 19. * Beazley, Dawn of Modern 
' C. lulii Solini Collectanea re- Geography. 1, 247. 


antedate the ninth century, but many of them have copied 
an earlier subscription from a manuscript written "by the 
zeal and diligence of our lord Theodosius, the unconquered 
prince." This is taken to refer to the emperor Theodosius 
II, 401-450. The work itself, however, has no Christian 
characteristics; on the contrary it is very fond of mentioning 
places famed in pagan religion and Greek mythology and 
of recounting miracles and marvels connected with heathen 
shrines and rites. Indeed, Solinus seldom, if ever, men- 
tions anything later than the first century of our era. He 
speaks of Byzantium, not of Constantinople, and makes no 
mention of the Roman provinces as divided in the system of 
Diocletian. His book, however, is a compilation from earlier 
writings so that we need not expect allusions to his own 
age. The Latin style and general literary make-up of the 
work are characteristic of the declining empire and early 
medieval period. Mommsen was inclined to date Solinus in 
the third rather than the fourth century, but the work seems 
to have been revised about the sixth century, after which 
date it became customary to call it the Polyhistor rather than 
the Collectanea rerum memorahilium. It is also referred to, 
however, as De mirabilibus mundi, or Wonders of the 

The work is primarily a geography and is arranged by General 
countries and places, beginning with Rome and Italy. As character 
each locality is considered, Solinus sometimes tells a little work: its 
of its history, but is especially inclined to recount miracu- ^o Pliny, 
lous religious events or natural marvels associated with that 
particular region. Thus in describing two lakes he rather 
apologizes for mentioning the first at all because it can 
scarcely be called miraculous, but assures us that the second 
"is regarded as very extraordinary." ^ Sometimes he di- 
gresses to other topics such as calendar reform.^ Solinus 
drav/s both his geographical data and further details very 
largely from Pliny's Natural History; but inasmuch as 
Pliny treated of these matters in separate books, Solinus has 

* Mommsen (1895), p. 48. 'Ibid., p. 7. 


to re-organize the material. He also selects simply a few 
particulars from Pliny's wealth of detail on any given sub- 
ject, and furthermore considerably alters Pliny's wording, 
sometimes condensing the thought, sometimes amplifying 
the phraseology — apparently in an effort to make the point 
clearer and easier reading. Of Pliny's thirty-seven books 
only those from the third to the thirteenth inclusive and the 
last book are used to any extent by Solinus. That is to say, 
he either was acquainted with only, or confined himself to, 
those books dealing with geography, man and other animals, 
and gems, omitting almost entirely, except for the twelfth 
and thirteenth books, Pliny's elaborate treatment of vegeta- 
tion and of medicinal simples -^ and discussion of metals and 
the fine arts. Solinus does not acknowledge his great debt 
to Pliny in particular, although he keeps alluding to the 
fulness with which everything has already been discussed 
by past authors, and although he cites other writers who are 
almost unknown to us. Of his known sources Pomponius 
Mela is the chief after Pliny but is used much less. On the 
other hand, the number of passages for which Mommsen 
was unable to give any source is not inconsiderable. As may 
have been already inferred, the work of Solinus is brief ; 
the text alone would scarcely fill one hundred pages.^ 
Animals It would perhaps be rash to conjecture which quality 

and gems, commended the book most to the following period : its handy 
size, or its easy style and fairly systematic arrangement, or 
its emphasis upon marvels. The last characteristic is at 
least the most germane to our investigation. Solinus ren- 
dered the service, if we may so term it, of reducing Pliny's 
treatment of animals and precious stones in particular to a 
few common examples, which either were already the best 
known or became so as a result of his selection. Indeed, 
King was of the opinion that the descriptions of gems in 
Solinus were more precise, technical, and systematic than 

^Yet one medieval MS of So- century, fols. 156-74- 

linus is described as De variorum ^ In Mommsen's edition critical 

herbarum et radicum qualitate et apparatus occupies more than one- 

virtute mcdica; Vienna 3959, 15th half of the 216 pages. 


those in Pliny, and found his notices "often extremely use- 
ful." ^ Solinus describes such animals as the wolf, lynx, 
bear, lion, hyena, onager or wild ass, basilisk, crocodile, 
hippopotamus, phoenix, dolphin, and chameleon ; and re- 
counts the marvelous properties of such gems as achates or 
agate, galactites, catochites, crystal, gagates, adamant, helio- 
trope, hyacinth, and paeanites. The dragons of India and 
Ethiopia also occupy his attention, as they did that of Phi- 
lostratus in the Life of Apolloniits of Tyana; indeed, he re- 
peats in different words the statement found in Philostratus 
that they swim far out to sea.^ In Sardinia, on the con- 
trary, there are no snakes, but a poisonous ant exists there. 
Fortunately there are also healing waters there with which 
to counteract its venom, but there is also native to Sardinia 
an herb called Sardonia which causes those who eat it to die 
of laughter.^ 

Although Solinus makes no use of Pliny's medical books. Occult 
he shows considerable interest in the healing properties of "^ *'^'"^' 
simples and in medicine. He tells us that those who slept 
in the shrine of Aesculapius at Epidaurus were warned in 
dreams how to heal their diseases,'* and that the third daugh- 
ter of Aeetes, named Angitia, devoted herself "to resisting 
disease by the salubrious science" of medicine.^ According 
to Solinus Circe as well as Medea was a daughter of Aeetes, 
but usually in Greek mythology she is represented as his 

* C. W. King, The Natural His- VII, 52) speaks of as a premoni- 
tory. Ancient and Modern, of tory sign of death in cases of 
Precious Stones and Gems, Lon- madness, "is not the indication of 
don, 1865, p. 6. mirth, but what has been termed 

=■ Mommsen (1895), PP. 132, 188. ^^^ ""tl"' Sardoniciis, the 'Sardonic 

l^ygj^^ produced by a convulsive 

* Ibid., 46-7. Mommsen could action of the muscles of the face." 
give no source for these state- This form of death may be what 
ments concerning Sardinia, and Solinus has in mind. Agricola in 
they donot appear to be in Pliny. his work on metallurgy and mines 
But it is from a footnote in the still believes in the poisonous ants 
English translation of the Natural of Sardinia; De re metaUica, VI, 
History by Bostock and Riley (II, near close, pp. 216-7, in Hoover's 
208, citing Dalechamps, and Le- translation, 1912. 

maire. III, 201) that I learn that "Mommsen (1895), p. 57. 

the laughter which Pliny (NH, '^ Ibid., p. 39. 


tus and 
not re- 
garded as 

bits of 


This allusion to Circe and Medea shows that magic, to 
which medicine and pharmacy are apparently akin, does not 
pass unnoticed in Solinus's page. He copies from Mela the 
account of the periodical transformation of the Neuri into 
wolves.^ But instead of accusing Democritus of having em- 
ployed magic, as Pliny does, Solinus represents him as en- 
gaging in contests with the Magi, in which he made frequent 
use of the stone catochites in order to demonstrate the oc- 
cult power of nature.^ That is to say, Democritus was ap- 
parently opposing science to magic and showing that all the 
latter's feats could be duplicated or improved upon by em- 
ploying natural forces. In two other passages ^ Solinus 
calls Democritus physicus, or scientist, and affirms that his 
birth in Abdera did more to make that town famous than 
any other thing connected with it, despite the fact that it 
was founded by and named after the sister of Diomedes. 
Zoroaster, too, whom Pliny called the founder of the magic 
art, is not spoken of as a magician by Solinus, although he 
is mentioned three times and is described as "most skilled 
in the best arts," and is cited concerning the power of coral 
and of the gem aetites^ 

It is not part of Solinus's plan to describe the heavens, 
but he occasionally alludes to "the discipline of the stars," ^ 
as he calls astronomy or astrology. On the authority of L. 
Tarrutius, "most renowned of astrologers," ® he tells us that 
the foundations of the walls of Rome were laid by Romulus 
in his twenty-second year on the eleventh day of the kalends 
of May between the second and third hours, when Jupiter 
was in Pisces, the sun in Taurus, the moon in Libra, and 
the other four planets in the sign of the scorpion. He also 

^Mommsen (1895), p. 82. 
''Ibid., pp. 45-46. 
*Ioid., pp. 13, 68. 
*lbid., pp. 18, 41, 159- 
'^ Ibid., p. 50, and elsewhere, 
"siderum disciplinam." 
''Ibid., p. 5, "mathematicorum 

nobilissimus." Solinus probably 
takes this from Varro, who, as 
Plutarch informs us in his Life of 
Romulus, asked "Tarrutius, his 
familiar acquaintance, a good 
philosopher and mathematician," 
to calculate the horoscope of 
Romulus. See above, p. 209. 


speaks of the star Arcturus destroying the Argive fleet off 
Euboea on its return from Ilium. ^ 

Alexander the Great figures prominently in the pages of Alexander 
Solinus, being mentioned a score of times, and this too cor- 
responds to the medieval interest in the Macedonian con- 
queror. Stories concerning him are repeated from Pliny, 
but Solinus also displays further information. He insists 
that Philip was truly his father, although he adds that Olym- 
pias strove to acquire a nobler father for him, when she 
affirmed that she had had intercourse with a dragon, and 
that Alexander tried to have himself considered of divine 
descent.^ The statement concerning Olympias suggests the 
story of Nectanebus, of which a later chapter will treat, but 
that individual is not mentioned, although Aristotle and Cal- 
listhenes are spoken of as Alexander's tutors, so that it is 
doubtful if Solinus was acquainted with the Pseudo-CaUis- 
thenes. He describes Alexander's line of march with fair 
accuracy and not in the totally incorrect manner of the 
Pseud o-Callisthenes. 

In seeking a third text and author of the same type as The 
Aelian and Solinus to round out the present chapter, our giyphicsoi 
choice unhesitatingly falls upon the Hieroglyphics of Hora- Horapollo. 
polio, a work which pretends to explain the meaning of the 
written symbols employed by the ancient Egyptian priests, 
but which is really principally concerned with the same mar- 
velous habits and properties of animals of which Aelian 
treated. In brief the idea is that these characteristics of 
animals must be known in order to comprehend the signifi- 
cance of the animal figures in the ancient hieroglyphic writ- 
ing. Horapollo is supposed to have written in the Egyptian 
language in perhaps the fourth or fifth century of our era,^ 
but his work is extant only in the Greek translation of it 
made by a Philip who lived a century or two later and who 
seems to have made some additions of his own.* 

^Mommsen (1905), pp. 75-6. ''I have used the text and Eng- 

^Ibid., p. 66. lish translation of A. T. Cory, 

* PW, for the problem of his The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo 

identity and further bibliography. Nilous, 1840. Philip's Greek is so 


Marvels of The zoology of Horapollo is for the most part not novel, 
but repeats the same erroneous notions that may be found 
in Aristotle's History of Animals, Pliny's Natural History, 
Aelian, and other ancient authors. Again we hear of the 
basilisk's fatal breath, of the beaver's discarded testicles, of 
the unnatural methods of conception of the weasel and 
viper, of the bear's licking its cubs into shape, of the kind- 
ness of storks to their parents, of wasps generated from a 
dead horse, of the phoenix, of the swan's song, of the sick 
lion's eating an ape to cure himself, of the bull tamed by 
tying it to the branch of a wild fig tree, of the elephant's 
fear of a ram or a dog and how it buries its tusks. ^ Less 
familiar perhaps are the assertions that the mare miscarries, 
if she merely treads on a wolf's tracks;^ that the pigeon 
cures itself by placing laurel in its nest; ^ that putting the 
wings of a bat on an ant-hill will prevent the ants from com- 
ing out.* The statement that if the hyena, when hunted, 
turns to the right, it will slay its pursuer, while if it turns 
to the left, it will be slain by him, is also found in Pliny.^ 
But his long enumeration of virtues ascribed to parts of 
the hyena by the Magi does not include the assertion in 
Horapollo's next chapter ® that a man girded with a hyena 
skin can pass through the ranks of his enemies without in- 
jury, although it ascribes somewhat similar virtues to the 
animal's skin. In Horapollo it is the hawk rather than the 
eagle which surpasses other winged creatures in its ability 
to gaze at the sun; hence physicians use the hawk-weed in 

bad that some would date it in the II, 44 and 39 and 76-7 and 85-6 

fourteenth or fifteenth century. and 88. 

The oldest extant Greek codex ^ II, 45. 

was purchased in Andros in 1419. MI, 46; Aelian says the same, 

The work was translated into however, as we stated above. 

Latin by the fifteenth century at " II, 64. 

latest; see Vienna 3255, 15th cen- "NH, XXVIII, 27. 

tury, 82 fols., Horapollo, Hiero- °II, 72. 

glyphicon latirie versorum liber I ' I, 6. According to Pliny (NH, 

et libri II introductio cum figuris XX, 26), the hawk sprinkles its 

calamo exaratis et coloratis. eyes with the juice of this herb; 

^I, i; II, 61; II, 65; II, 36 and Apuleius (Metamorphoses, cap. 

59; II, 57; II, 83; I, 34-5; il, 57; 30) says that the eagle does so. 


Animals also serve as astronomical or astrological sym- Animals 
bols in the system of hieroglyphic writing as interpreted by astrology. 
Horapollo. Not only does a palm tree represent the year 
because it puts forth a new branch every new moon/ but 
the phoenix denotes the magnus annus in the course of which 
the heavenly bodies complete their revolutions.^ The scarab 
rolls his ball of dung from east to west and gives it the shape 
of the universe.^ He buries it for twenty-eight days con- 
formably to the course of the moon through the zodiac, but 
he has thirty toes to correspond to the days of the month. 
As there is no female scarab, so there is no male vulture. 
The female vulture symbolizes the Egyptian year by spend- 
ing five days in conceiving by the wind, one hundred and 
twenty in pregnancy, the same period in rearing its young, 
and the remaining one hundred and twenty days in prepar- 
ing itself to repeat the process.* The vulture also visits 
battlefields seven days in advance and by the direction of its 
glance indicates which army will be defeated. 

The cynocephalus, dog-headed ape, or baboon, was men- The cyno- 
tioned several times by Pliny, but Horapollo gives more ^^^ 
specific information concerning it, chiefly of an astrological 
character. It is born circumcised and is reared in temples 
in order to learn from it the exact hour of lunar eclipses, at 
which times it neither sees nor eats, while the female ex gen- 
italibus sanguinem emittit. The cynocephalus represents the 
inhabitable world which has seventy-two primitive parts, 
because the animal dies and is buried piecemeal by the priests 
during a period of as many days, until at the end of the 
seventy-second day life has entirely departed from the last 
remnant of its carcass.^ The cynocephalus not only marks 
the time of eclipses but at the equinoxes makes water twelve 
times by day and by night, marking off the hours ; hence a 
figure of it is carved by the Egyptians on their water-clocks.® 
Horapollo associates together the god of the universe and 
fate and the stars which are five in number, for he believes 

*I, 3. "I. II- 

'II, 57. "I. 14. 

•I, 10. "I. 16. 


that five planets carry out the economy of the universe and 
that they are subject to God's government.^ 
Horapollo Horapollo cannot be given high rank either as a zoolo- 

poHtan"^°" S^^^ ^"^ astronomer, or a philologer and archaeologist; but 
at least he was no narrow nationalist and had some respect 
for history. The Egyptians, he says, "denote a man who 
has never left his own country by a human figure with the 
head of an ass, because he neither hears any history nor 
knows of what is going on abroad." ^ 

*I, 13. ^I» 23. 











The Book of Enoch. 

Philo Judaeus. 

The Gnostics. 

The Christian Apocrypha. 

17. The Recognitions of Clement and Simon 

18. The Confession of Cyprian and some similar 

19. Origen and Celsus. 

20. Other Christian Discussion of Magic before 

21. Christianity and Natural Science; Basil, 
Epiphanius, and the Physiologus. 

22. Augustine on Magic and Astrology. 

23. The Fusion of Pagan and Christian Thought 
in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries. 




We now turn back chronologically to the point from 
which we started in our survey of classical science and 
magic in order to trace the development of Christian thought 
in regard to the same subjects. How far did Christianity 
break with ancient science and superstition? To what ex- 
tent did it borrow from them ? 

It has often been remarked that, as a new religion comes Magic and 
to prevail in a society, the old rites are discredited and pro- I'^ligion- 
hibited as magic. The faith and ceremonies of the majority, 
performed publicly, are called religion : the discarded cult, 
now practiced only privately and covertly by a minority, 
is stigmatized as magic and contrary to the general good. 
Thus we shall hear Christian writers condemn the pagan 
oracles and auguries as arts of divination, and classify the 
ancient gods as demons of the same sort as those invoked 
in the magic arts. Conversely, when a new religion is being 
introduced, is as yet regarded as a foreign faith, and is 
still only the private worship of a minority, the majority 
regard it as outlandish magic. And this we shall find illus- 
trated by the accusations of sorcery and magic heaped upon 
Jesus by the Jews, and upon the Jews and the early Chris- 
tians by a world long accustomed to pagan rites. The same 
bandying back and forth of the charge of magic occurred be- 
tween Mohammed and the Meccans.^ 

It is perhaps generally assumed that the men of the mid- Relation 

die ages were widely read in and deeply influenced ^^j-iy 

by the fathers of the early church, but at least for our sub- Christiaji 

1 • 1 1 11 ^"^ medie- 

ject this influence has hardly been treated either broadly or val litera- 

*Sir William Muir, "Ancient Arabic Poetry, its Genuineness ^^^' 
and Authenticity," in Royal Asiatic Society's Journal (1882), p. 30. 




Method of 





in detail. Indeed, the predilection of the humanists of the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries for anything written in 
Greek and their aversion to medieval Latin has too long 
operated as a bar to the study of medieval literature in gen- 
eral. And scholars who have edited or studied the Greek, 
Syriac, and other ancient texts connected with early Chris- 
tianity have perhaps too often neglected the Latin versions 
preserved in medieval manuscripts, or, while treasuring up 
every hint that Photius lets fall, have failed to note the cita- 
tions and allusions in medieval Latin encyclopedists. Yet it 
is often the case that the manuscripts containing the Latin 
versions are of earlier date than those which seem to pre- 
serve the Greek original text. 

There is so much repetition and resemblance between the 
numerous Christian writers in Greek and Latin of the Ro- 
man Empire that I have even less than in the case of their 
classical contemporaries attempted a complete presentation 
of them, but, while not intending to omit any account of the 
first importance in the history of magic or experimental sci- 
ence, have aimed to make a selection of representative per- 
sons and typical passages. At the same time, in the case 
of those authors and works which are discussed, the aim is 
to present their thought in sufficiently specific detail to 
enable the reader to estimate for himself their scientific or 
superstitious character and their relations to classical thought 
on the one hand and medieval thought on the other. 

Before we treat of Christian writings themselves it is 
essential to notice some related lines of thought and groups 
of writings which either preceded or accompanied the devel- 
opment of Christian thought and literature, and which either 
influenced even orthodox thought powerfully, or illustrate 
foreign elements, aberrations, side-currents, and undertows 
which none the less cannot be disregarded in tracing the 
main current of Christian belief. We therefore shall suc- 
cessively treat of the literature extant under the name of 
Enoch, of the works of Philo Judaeus, of the doctrines of 
the Gnostics, of the Christian Apocrypha, of the Pseudo- 


Clementines and Simon Magus, and of the Confession of 
Cyprian and some similar stories. We shall then make 
Origen's Reply to Celsus, in which the conflict of classical 
and Christian conceptions is well illustrated, our point of 
departure in an examination of the attitude of the early 
fathers towards magic and science. Succeeding chapters will 
treat of the attitude toward magic of other fathers before 
Augustine, of Christianity and natural science as shown in 
Basil's Hexaemeron, Epiphanius' Panarion, and the Physio- 
logus, and of Augustine himself. A final chapter on the 
fusion of paganism and Christianity in the fourth and fifth 
centuries will terminate this second division of our investi- 
gation and also serve as a supplement to the preceding divi- 
sion and an introduction to the third book on the early mid- 
dle ages. Our arrangement is thus in part topical rather 
than strictly chronological. The dates of many authors and 
works are too dubious, there is too much of the apocryphal 
and interpolated, and we have to rely too much upon later 
writers for the views of earlier ones, to make a strictly or 
even primarily chronological arrangement either advisable 
or feasible. 





as an 


in the 



Enoch's reputation as an astrologer in the middle ages — Date and 
influence of the literature ascribed to Enoch — Angels governing the 
universe ; stars and angels — The fallen angels teach men magic and 
other arts — The stars as sinners — Effect of sin upon nature — Celestial 
phenomena — Mountains and metals — Strange animals. 

In collections of medieval manuscripts there often is found 
a treatise on fifteen stars, fifteen herbs, fifteen stones, and 
fifteen figures engraved upon them, which is attributed some- 
times to Hermes, presumably Trismegistus, and sometimes 
to Enoch, the patriarch, who "walked with God and was 
not."^ Indeed in the prologue to a Hermetic work on astrol- 
ogy in a medieval manuscript we are told that Enoch and the 
first of the three Hermeses or Mercuries are identical.^ This 

* Ascribed to Enoch in Harleian 
MS 1612, fol. I5r, Incipit: 
"Enoch tanquam unus ex phi- 
losophis super res quartum librum 
edidit, in quo voluit determinare 
ista quatuor : videlicet de xv 
stellis, de xv herbis, de xv lapidi- 
bus preciosis et de xv figuris 
ipsis lapidibus sculpendis," and 
Wolfenbiittel 2725, 14th century, 
fols. 83-94V; BN 13014, 14th cen- 
tury, fol. 174V; Amplon, Quarto 
381 (Erfurt), 14th century, fols. 
42-45 : for "Enoch's prayer" see 
Sloane MS 3821, 17th century, 
fols. 190V-193. 

Ascribed to Hermes in Harleian 
80, Sloane 3847, Royal 12-C- 
XVni; Berlin 963, fol. 105; 
Vienna 5216, 15th century, fols. 
63r-66v; "Dixit Enoch quod 15 
sunt stelle / ex tractatu Here- 
meth (i- e. Hermes) et enoch 
compilatum" ; and in the Cata- 
logue of Amplonius (1412 A.D.), 
Math. 53. See below, H, 220-21. 

The stars are probably fifteen in 
number because Ptolemy distin- 
guished that many stars of first 
magnitude. Dante, Paradiso, XHI, 
4, also speaks of "quindici stelle." 
See Orr (1913), pp. 154-6, where 
Ptolemy's descriptions of the fif- 
teen stars of first magnitude and 
their modern names are given. 

*Digby 67, late 12th century, 
fol. 69r, "Prologus de tribiis 
Mercuriis." They are also identi- 
fied by other medieval writers. 
Some would further identify 
with Enoch Nannacus or Anna- 
cus, king of Phrygia, who fore- 
saw Deucalion's flood and la- 
mented. See J. G. Frazer (1918), 
I, 155-6, and P. Buttmann, Myth- 
ologus, Berlin, 1828- 1829, and E. 
Babelon, La tradition phrygienne 
du deluge, in Rev. d. I hist. d. 
religs., XXHI (1891), which he 

Roger Bacon stated that some 
would identify Enoch with "the 





treatise probably has no direct relation to the Book of 
Enoch, which we shall discuss in this chapter and which 
was composed in the pre-Christian period. But it is inter- 
esting to observe that the same reputation for astrology, 
which led the middle ages sometimes to ascribe this treatise 
to Enoch, is likewise found in "the first notice of a book of 
Enoch," which "appears to be due to a Jewish or Samaritan 
Hellenist," which "has come down to us successively through 
Alexander Polyhistor and Eusebius," and which states that 
Enoch was the founder of astrology.^ The statement in 
Genesis that Enoch lived three hundred and sixty-five years 
would also lead men to associate him with the solar year 
and stars. 

The Book of Enoch is "the precipitate of a literature. Date and 
once very active, which revolved . . . round Enoch," and of ^j^g 

in the form which has come down to us is a patchwork from 'iterature 

"several originally independent books." ^ It is extant in the to Enoch. 

form of Greek fragments preserved in the Chronography of 
G. Syncellus,^ or but lately discovered in (Upper) Egypt, 
and in more complete but also more recent manuscripts giv- 
ing an Ethiopic and a Slavonic version.^ These last two 
versions are quite different both in language and content, 
while some of the citations of Enoch in ancient writers 
apply to neither of these versions. While "Ethiopic did not 
exist as a literary language before 350 A. D.," ^ and none 

great Hermogenes, whom the 
Greeks much commend and laud, 
and they ascribe to him all secret 
and celestial science." Steele 
(1920) 99. 

'R. H. Charles, The Book of 
Enoch, Oxford, 1893, p. 33, citing 
Euseb. Praep. Evan., ix, 17, 8 

* Charles (1893), p. 10, citing 

*ed. Dindorf, 1829. 

* Lods, Ad. Le Livre d'Henoch, 
Fragments grecs decouverts a 
Akhmin, Paris, 1892. 

Charles, R. H., The Book of 
Enoch, Oxford, 1893, "translated 
from Professor Dillman's Ethi- 

opic text, amended and revised 
in accordance with hitherto uncol- 
lated Ethiopic manuscripts and 
with the Gizeh and other Greek 
and Latin fragments, which are 
here published in full." The Book 
of EnocJi, translated anezv, etc., 
Oxford, 1912. Also translated in 
Charles (1913) II, 163-281. There 
are twenty-nine Ethiopic MSS of 

Charles, R. H., and Morfill, W. 
R., The Book of the Secrets of 
Enoch, translated from the Sla- 
vonic, Oxford, 1896. Also by 
Forbes and Charles in Charles 
(1913) II. 425-69. 

"Charles (1893), p. 22. 


of the extant manuscripts of the Ethiopic version is earlier 
than the fifteenth century/ Charles believes that they are 
based upon a Greek translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic 
original, and that even the interpolations in this were made 
by an editor living before the Christian era. He asserts that 
**nearly all the writers of the New Testament were familiar 
with it," and influenced by it, — in fact that its influence on 
the New Testament was greater than that of all the other 
apocrypha together, and that it "had all the weight of a 
canonical book" with the early church fathers.^ After 
300 A. D., however, it became discredited, except as we 
have seen among Ethiopic and Slavonic Christians. Be- 
fore 300 Origen in his Reply to Celsus ^ accuses his 
opponent of quoting the Book of Enoch as a Christian au- 
thority concerning the fallen angels. Origen objects that 
"the books which bear the name Enoch do not at all circu- 
late in the Churches as divine." Augustine, in the City of 
God,'^ written between 413 and 426, admits that Enoch "left 
some divine writings, for this is asserted by the Apostle 
Jude in his canonical epistle." But he doubts if any of the 
writings current in his own day are genuine and thinks that 
they have been wisely excluded from the course of Scripture. 
Lods writes that after the ninth century in the east and from 
a much earlier date in the west, the Book of Enoch is not 
mentioned, "At the most some medieval rabbis seem still 
to know of it." ^ Yet Alexander Neckam, in the twelfth 
century, speaks as if Latin Christendom of that date had 
some acquaintance with the Enoch literature. We shall note 
some passages in Saint Hildegard which seem parallel to 
others in the Book of Enoch, while Vincent of Beauvais in 
his Speculum naturale in the thirteenth century, in justify- 
ing a certain discriminating use of the apocryphal books, 
points out that Jude quotes Enoch whose book is now called 

'Charles (1913), II, 165-6. "Introd., vi. 

' Charles (1893), pp. 2 and 41- "Spec. Nat., I, g. A Latin frag- 

• v., 54. ment, found in the British Museum 

* XV, 23. in 1893 by Dr. M. R. James and 


The Enoch literature has much to say concerning angels, Angels 
and implies their control of nature, man, and the future. fhJ^uni"^ 
We hear of Raphael, "who is set over all the diseases and verse: 
wounds of the children of men"; Gabriel, "who is set over angels, 
all the powers" ; Phanuel, "who is set over the repentance and 
hope of those who inherit eternal life." ^ The revolution 
of the stars is described as "according to the number of 
the angels," and in the Slavonic version the number of those 
angels is stated as two hundred.^ Indeed the stars them- 
selves are often personified and we read "how they keep faith 
with each other" and even of "all the stars whose privy 
members are like those of horses." ^ The Ethiopic version 
also speaks of the angels or spirits of hoar-frost, dew, hail, 
snow and so forth.* In the Slavonic version Enoch finds 
in the sixth heaven the angels who attend to the phases of 
the moon and the revolutions of stars and sun and who 
superintend the good or evil condition of the world. He 
finds angels set over the years and seasons, the rivers and 
sea, the fruits of the earth, and even an angel over every 

The fallen angels in particular are mentioned in the Book The fallen 

of Enoch. Two hundred angels lusted after the comely f"^?|^ 
•' o J teach men 

daughters of men and bound themselves by oaths to marry magic and 
them.^ After having thus taken unto themselves wives, they 
instructed the human race in the art of magic and the science 
of botany — or to be more exact, "charms and enchantments" 
and "the cutting of roots and of woods." In another chap- 
ter various individual angels are named who taught respec- 
tively the enchanters and botanists, the breaking of charms, 
astrology, and various branches thereof."^ In the Greek frag- 
ment preserved by Syncellus there are further mentioned 
pharmacy, and what probably denote geomancy ("sign of 

published in the Cambridge Texts ^ Book of Enoch, XLIII; XC, 

and Studies, II, 3, Apocrypha 21. 

Anecdota, pp. 146-50, "seems to * Ibid., LX, 17-18. 

point to a Latin translation of ^Secrets of Enoch, XIX. 

Enoch"— Charles (1913) H, 167. 'Caps. VI-XI in both Lods and 

^ Book of Enoch, XL, 9. Charles. 

* Ibid.,y.U.ll; Secrets of Enoch. 'Book of Enoch, VIII, 3, in 

IV. both Charles and Lods. 


the earth") and aeromancy {aeroskopia). Through this 
revelation of mysteries which should have been kept hid we 
are told that men "know all the secrets of the angels, and 
all the violence of the Satans, and all their occult power, and 
all the power of those who practice sorcery, and the power 
of witchcraft, and the power of those who make molten 
images for the whole earth." ^ The revelation included, 
moreover, not only magic arts, witchcraft, divination, and 
astrology, but also natural sciences, such as botany and 
pharmacy — which, however, are apparently regarded as 
closely akin to magic — and useful arts such as mining metals, 
manufacturing armor and weapons, and "writing with ink 
and paper" — "and thereby many sinned from eternity to 
eternity and until this day." ^ As the preceding remark in- 
dicates, the author is decidedly of the opinion that men 
were not created to the end that they should write with pen 
and ink. "For man was created exactly like the angels 
to the intent that he should continue righteous and pure, 
. . . but through this their knowledge men are perishing." ^ 
Perhaps the writer means to censure writing as magical and 
thinks of it only as mystic signs and characters. Magic is 
always regarded as evil in the Enoch literature, and witch- 
craft, enchantments, and "devilish magic" are given a promi- 
nent place in a list in the Slavonic version ^ of evil deeds 
done upon earth. 

In connection with the fallen angels we find the stars 
regarded as capable of sin as well as personified. In the 
Ethiopic version there is more than one mention of seven 
stars that transgressed the command of God and are bound 
against the day of judgment or for the space of ten thou- 
sand years. ^ One passage tells how "judgment was held 
first over the stars, and they were judged and found guilty, 
and went to the place of condemnation, and they were cast 
into an abyss." ^ A similar identification of the stars with 
the fallen angels is found in one of the visions of Saint 

"■Book of Enoch, LXV, 6. * Secrets of Enoch, X. 

'Ibid., LXV, 7-8; LXIX, 6-9. ^ Book of Enoch, XVIII, XXL 

*Ibid., LXIX, lo-ii. "Ibid., XC, 24. 


Hildegard in the twelfth century. She writes, "I saw a 
great star most splendid and beautiful, and with it an ex- 
ceeding multitude of falling sparks which with the star 
followed southward. And they examined Him upon His 
throne almost as something hostile, and turning from Him, 
they sought rather the north. And suddenly they were all 
annihilated, being turned into black coals . . . and cast into 
the abyss that I could see them no more." ^ She then in- 
terprets the vision as signifying the fall of the angels. 

An idea which we shall find a number of times in other Effect of 
ancient and medieval writers appears also in the Book of nature. 
Enoch. It is that human sin upsets the world of nature, 
and in this particular case, even the period of the moon and 
the orbits of the stars." Hildegard again roughly parallels 
the Enoch literature by holding that the original harmony 
of the four elements upon this earth was changed into a 
confused and disorderly mixture after the fall of man.^ 

The natural world, although intimately associated with Celestial 
the spiritual world and hardly distinguished from it in the phenomena 
Enoch literature, receives considerable attention, and much 
of the discussion in both the Ethiopic and Slavonic versions 
is of a scientific rather than ethical or apocalyptic character. 
One section of the Ethiopic version is described by Charles * 
as the Book of Celestial Physics and upholds a calendar 
based upon the lunar year. The Slavonic version, on the 
other hand, while mentioning the lunar year of 354 days 
and the solar year of 365 and ^ days, seems to prefer 
the latter, since the years of Enoch's life are given as 
365, and he writes 366 books concerning what he has seen 
in his visions and voyages.^ The Book of Enoch supposes 
a plurality of heavens.*' In the Slavonic version Enoch is 

* Singer's translation. Studies " See Morfill-Charles, pp. xxxiv- 
in the History and Method of xxxv, for mention of three and 
Science, Vol. I, p. 53, of Scivias, seven heavens in the apocryphal 
III, I, in Migne, PL, 197, 565. See Testaments of the Twelve Patri- 
also the Koran XV, 18. archs, "written about or before 

^ Charles, p. 32 and cap. LXXX. the beginning of the Christian 

* Singer, 25-26. era," and for "the probability of 
*Pp. 187-219. an Old Testament belief in the 
^Secrets of Enoch, I and XXX. plurality of the heavens." For the 






taken through the seven heavens, or ten heavens in one manu- 
script, with the signs of the zodiac in the eighth and ninth. 
An account is also given of the creation, and the waters above 
the firmament, which were to give the early Christian apolo- 
gists and medieval clerical scientists so much difficulty, are 
described as follows : "And thus I made firm the waters, 
that is, the depths, and I surrounded the waters with light, 
and I created seven circles, and I fashioned them like 
crystal, moist and dry, that is to say, like glass and ice, and 
as for the waters and also the other elements I showed each 
of them their paths, (viz.) to the seven stars, each of them 
in their heaven, how they should go." ^ The order of the 
seven planets in their circles is given as follows: in the first 
and highest circle the star Kruno, then Aphrodite or Venus, 
Ares (Mars), the sun, Zeus (Jupiter), Hermes (Mercury), 
and the moon.^ God also tells Enoch that the duration of 
the world will be for a week of years, that is, seven thousand, 
after which "let there be at the beginning of the eighth 
thousand a time when there is no computation and no end ; 
neither years nor months nor weeks nor days nor hours." ^ 
Turning from celestial physics to terrestrial phenomena, 
we may note a few allusions to minerals, vegetation, and 
-animals. "Seven mountains of magnificent stones" are 
more than once mentioned in the Ethiopic version and are 
described as each different from the other.* Another pas- 
sage speaks of "seven mountains full of choice nard and 
aromatic trees and cinnamon and pepper." ° But whether 

seven heavens in the apocryphal 
Ascension of Isaiah see Charles' 
edition of that virork (igoo), xlix. 
^Secrets of Enoch, XXVII. 
Charles prefaces this passage by 
the remark, "I do not pretend to 
understand what follows" : but it 
seems clear that the waters above 
the firmament are referred to from 
what the author goes on to say, 
"And thus I made firm the circles 
of the heavens, and caused the 
waters below which are under the 
heavens to be gathered into one 
place." It would also seem that 

each of the seven planets is rep- 
resented as moving in a sphere of 
crystal. In the Ethiopic version, 
LIV, 8, we are told that the water 
above the heavens is masculine, 
and that the water beneath the 
earth is feminine ; also LX, 7-8, 
that Leviathan is female and 
Behemoth male. 

'Secrets of Enoch, XXX. 

^ Ibid., 45-46, see also the Ethi- 
opic Book of Enoch, XCIII, for 
"seven weeks." 

*Book of Enoch, XVIII, XXIV. 

''Ibid., XXXII. 


these groups of seven mountains are to be astrologically 
related to the seven planets is not definitely stated. We are 
also left in doubt whether the following passage may have 
some astrological or even alchemical significance, or whether 
it is merely a figurative prophecy like that in the Book of 
Daniel concerning the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his 
dream. "There mine eyes saw all the hidden things of 
heaven that shall be, an iron mountain, and one of copper, 
and one of silver, and one of gold, and one of soft metal, and 
one of lead." ^ At any rate Enoch has come very near to 
listing the seven metals usually associated with the seven 
planets. In another passage we are informed that while 
silver and "soft metal" come from the earth, lead and tin 
are produced by a fountain in which an eminent angel 

As for animals we are informed that Behemoth is male Strange 
and Leviathan female.^ When Enoch went to the ends of 
the earth he saw there great beasts and birds who differed 
in appearance, beauty, and voice.* In the Slavonic version 
we hear a good deal of phoenixes and chalky dri, who seem 
to be flying dragons. These creatures are described as 
"strange in appearance with the feet and tails of lions and 
the heads of crocodiles. Their appearance was of a purple 
color like the rainbow; their size, nine hundred measures. 
Their wings were like those of angels, each with twelve, 
and they attend the chariot of the sun, and go with him, 
bringing heat and dew as they are ordered by God." ^ 

"■Book of Enoch, LII, 2. * Ibid., XXXIII. 

^Ibid., LXV, 7-8. "Secrets of Enoch, XII, XV, 

'Ibid., LX, 7. XIX. 



Bibliographical note — Philo the mediator between Hellenistic and 
Jewish-Christian thought — His influence upon the middle ages was 
indirect — Good and bad magic — Stars not gods nor first causes — But 
rational and virtuous animals, and God's viceroys over inferiors — 
They do not cause evil; but it is possible to predict the future from 
their motions — Jewish astrology — Perfection of the number seven — 
And of fifty — Also of four and six — Spirits of the air — Interpretation 
of dreams — Politics are akin to magic — A thought repeated by Moses 
Maimonides and Albertus Magnus. 

^'But since every city in which laws are properly estab- 
lished has a regular constitution, it became necessary for 
this citizen of the world to adopt the same constitution as 
that which prevailed in the universal world. And this con- 
stitution is the right reason of nature." 

— On Creation, cap. 50. 

There probably Is no other man who marks so well the 
fusion of Hellenic and Hebrew ideas and the transition 
from them to Christian thought as Philo Judaeus.^ He 
flourished at Alexandria in the first years of our era — 
the exact dates both of his birth and of his death are un- 
certain — and speaks of himself as an old man at the time of 

* The literature dealing in gen- 
eral with Philo and his philosophy 
is too extensive to indicate here, 
while there has been no study 
primarily devoted to our interest 
in him. It may be useful to note, 
however, the most recent editions 
of his works and studies concern- 
ing him, from which the reader 
can learn of earlier researches. 
See also Leopold Cohn, The 
Latest Researches on Philo of 
Alexandria (Reprinted from The 
Jewish Quarterly Review), Lon- 

don, 1892. The most recent edi- 
tion of the Greek text of Philo's 
works is by L. Cohn and P. Wend- 
land, Philonis Alexandrini opera 
quae supcrsunt, Berlin, 1896-1915, 
in six vols. The earlier edition 
was by Mangey. Recent editions 
of single works are : F. C. Cony- 
beare, Philo about the Contempla- 
tive Life, critically edited with a 
defence of its genuineness, 1895. 
E. Brehier, Commentaire alle- 
gorique des Saintes Lois apres 
l'a:uvre des six jours, Greek and 





his participation in the embassy of Jews to the Emperor 
Gaius or CaHguIa in 40 A. D. He repeats the doctrines 
of the Greek philosophers and anticipates much that the 
church fathers discuss. Before the Neo-Platonists he re- 
gards matter as the source of all evil and feels the necessity 
of mediators, angels or demons, between God and man. 
Before the medieval revival of Aristotle and natural phi- 
losophy he tries to reconcile the Mosaic account of creation 
with belief in a world soul, and monotheism with astrology. 
Before the rise of Christian monasticism he describes in his 
treatise On the Contemplative Life an ascetic community 
of Therapeutae at Lake Maerotis.^ After Pythagoras he 
enlarges upon the mystic significance of numbers. After 
Plato he repeats the conception of an ideal city of God 

French, 1909. In the passages 
from Philo quoted in this chapter 
I have often availed myself of the 
wording of the English translation 
by C. D. Yonge in four vols., 
1854-1855. The Latin translation 
of Philo's works made from the 
Greek by Lilius Tifernates for 
Popes Sixtus IV and Innocent 
VIII is preserved at the Vatican 
in a series of six MSS written 
during the years 1479-1484: Vatic. 
Lat., 180-185. 

J. d'Alma, Philon d'Alexandrie et 

le quatricme Evangile, 1910. 

N. Bentwich, Philo-Judaeus of 

Alexandria, 1910 (a small 

general book). 

T. H. Billings, The Platonism of 

Philo Judaeiis, 1919. 
W. Bousset, JUdisch-Christlicher 
Schulbetrieb in Alexandria 
und Rom, 1915. 
E. Brehier, Les I dees philo so- 
phiques et religieuscs de 
Philon dAlexandrie, 1908, a 
scholarly work with a ten- 
page bibliography. 
M. Caraccio, Filone dAlessa'ndria 
e le sue opere, 191 1, a brief 
indication of the contents of 
each work. 
K. S. Guthrie, The Message of 
Philo Judaeus, 1910, popular. 
H. Guyot, Les Reminiscences de 
Philon le Juif che:: Plotin, 1906. 
P. Heinsch, Der EinHuss Philos 

auf die dlteste christliche 
Exegese, 1908, 296 pp. 
H. A. A. Kennedy, Philo's contri- 
bution to Religion, 1919. 
J. Martin, Philon, 1907, with a 

five-page bibliography. 
L. H. Mills, Zarathustra, Philo, 
the Achaemenids and Israel, 
190S, 460 pp. 
L. Treitel, Philonische Studicn, 

1915, is of limited scope. 
H. Windisch, Die Frommigkeit 
Philos u>id ihrc Bcdeutung 
filr das Christcntutn, 1909. 
* The genuineness of this trea- 
tise, denied by Graetz and Lucius 
in the mid-nineteenth century, was 
amply demonstrated by L. Mas- 
sebieau, Revue de I'Histoire des 
Religions, XVI (1887), 170-98, 
284-319; Conybeare, Philo about 
the Contemplative Life, Oxford, 
1895 ; and P. Wendland, Die 
Thcrapeuten und die Philonische 
Schrift vom Bcschaulichen Leben, 
in Jahrb. f. Class. Philologie, 
Band 22 (1896), 693-770. In St. 
John's College Library, Oxford, 
in a manuscript of the early 
eleventh century (MS 128, fol. 
215 fif) with Dionysius the 
Areopagite on the ecclesiastical 
hierarchy, is, Philonis de excir- 
cumcisione credentibus in Aegyp- 
to Christianis simul et monachis 
ex suprascripto ab eo sermone de 
vita theorica aut de orantibus. 


which was to gain such a hold upon Christian imagination.^ 
After the Stoics he proclaims the doctrine of the law of 
nature, holds that the institution of human slavery is abso- 
lutely contrary to it, and writes "a treatise to prove that 
every virtuous man is free" and that to be virtuous is to 
live in conformity to nature.^ He had previously written 
another treatise designed to show that "every wicked man 
"was a slave," ^ and he held a theory which we met in the 
Enoch literature and shall meet again in a number of subse- 
quent writers that sin was punished naturally by forces of 
nature such as floods and thunderbolts. He did not orig- 
inate the practice of allegorical interpretation of the Bible 
but he is our first great extant example thereof. He even 
went so far as to regard the tree of life and the story of 
the serpent tempting Eve as purely symbolical, an attitude 
which found little favor with Christian writers.* His 
effort by means of the allegorical method to find in the books 
of the Pentateuch all the attractive concepts and theories 
which he had learned from the Greeks became later in the 
Christian apologists an assertion that Plato and Pythagoras 
had borrowed their doctrines from Abraham and Moses. 
His doctrine of the logos had a powerful influence upon the 
writers of the New Testament and the theology of the early 
church,^ Yet Philo afflrms that no more perfect good than 
philosophy exists in human life and in both literary style 
and erudition he is a Hellene to his very finger tips. The 
recent tendency, seen especially in German scholarship, to 
deny the writers of the Roman Empire any capacity for 
original thought and to trace back their ideas to unextant 
authors of a supposedly much more productive Hellenistic 
age has perhaps been carried too far. But if we may not 
regard Philo as a great originator, and it is evident that 
he borrowed many of his ideas, he was at any rate a great 

^ De mundi opificio, caps. 49 is not extant, 

and 50. * De mundi opiAcio, caps. 54 

' On the Contemplative Life, and 55. 

Chapter 9. " Reville, J., Le logos, d'apres 

* So he states in the opening Philon d'Alexandrie, Geneve, 1877. 
ientences of the other treatise; it 


transmitter of thought, a mediator after his own heart be- 
tween Jews and Greeks, and between them both and the 
Christian writers to come. Standing at the close of the 
Hellenistic age and at the opening of the Roman period, he 
occupies in the history of speculative and theological thought 
an analogous position to that of Pliny the Elder in the his- 
tory of natural science, gathering up the lore of the past, 
perhaps improving it with some additions of his own, and 
exercising a profound influence upon the age to come. 

Philo's medieval influence, however, was probably more His influ- 
indirect than Pliny's and passed itself on through yet other the niiddle 
mediators to the more remote times. Comparatively speak- ages was 
ing, the Natural History of Pliny probably was more impor- 
tant in the middle ages than in the early Roman Empire 
when other authorities prevailed in the Greek-speaking 
world. Philo's influence on the other hand must soon be 
transmitted through Christian, and then again through Latin, 
mediums. This is indicated by the fact that to-day many 
of his works are wholly lost or extant only in fragments ^ 
or in Armenian versions,^ and that we have no sure infor- 
mation as to the order in which they were composed.^ But 
his initial force is none the less of the greatest moment, and 
seems amply sufficient to justify us in selecting his writings 
as one of our starting points. The extent to which one is 
apt to find in the writings of Philo passages which are fore- 
runners of the statements of subsequent writers, may be 
illustrated by the familiar story of King Canute and the 
tide. Philo in his work On Dreams ■* speaks of the custom 
of the Germans of charging the incoming tide with their 
drawn swords. But what especially concern us are Philo's 

* Lincoln College, Oxford, has a perfect Latin version, is not re- 

I2th century MS in Greek of the garded as a genuine work, — see 

De vita Mosis and De virtutibus, W. O. E. Oesterley and G. H. 

— MS 34. Box, The Biblical Antiquities of 

'The Alexander sive de animali- Philo, now first translated from 

bus and the complete text of the the old Latin version by M. R. 

De providentia exist only in James (1917), p. 7. 

Armenian translation, — see Cohn ' Cohn (1892), 11. 

(1892), p. 16. The Biblical An- *ll, 17. 
tiquities, extant only in an im- 


statements concerning magic, astrology, the stars, the per- 
fection and power of numbers, demons, and the interpreta- 
tion of dreams. 

Philo draws a distinction between magic in the good and 
bad sense. The former and true magical art is the lore of 
learned Persians called Magi who investigate nature more 
minutely and deeply than is usual and explain divine virtues 
clearly.^ The latter magic is a spurious imitation of the 
other, practised by quacks and impostors, old-wives and 
slaves, who by means of incantations and the like procedure 
profess to change men from love to hatred or vice versa 
and who "deceive unsuspecting persons and waste whole 
families away by degrees and without making any noise." 
It is to this adulterated and evil magic that Philo again 
refers when he likens political life to Joseph's coat of many 
colors, stained with the blood of wars, and in which a very 
little truth is mixed up with a great deal of sophistry akin 
to that of the augurs, ventriloquists, sorcerers, jugglers and 
enchanters, "from whose treacherous arts it is very difficult 
to escape." ^ This distinction between a magic of the wise 
and of nature and that of vulgar impostors is one which 
we shall find in many subsequent writers, although it was 
not recognized by Pliny. Philo also antecedes numerous 
Christian commentators upon the Book of Numbers ^ in 
considering the vexed question whether Balaam was an evil 
enchanter and diviner, or a divine prophet, or whether he 
combined magic and prophecy, and thus indicated that the 
former art is not evil but has divine approval. Philo's con- 
clusion is the more usual one that Balaam was a celebrated 
diviner and magician, and that it is impossible that "holy 
inspiration should be combined with magic," but that in the 
particular case of his blessing Israel the spirit of divine 

^ (Quod omnis probus liber sit, a number of other passages of the 

cap. xi) ; also The Law Concern- Bible: Deut.. XXIII, 3-6; Joshua, 

ing Murderers, cap. 4. XIII, 22; XXIV, 9-10; Nehemiah, 

'On Dreams, I, 38. XIII, iflf; Micah, VI, 5; Second 

* Numbers XXII-XXV. Ba- Peter, II, 15-16; Jude, 11 ; Revela- 

laam is, of course, referred to in tion, II, 14. 


prophecy took possession of him and "drove all his artificial 
system of cunning divination out of his soul." ^ 

Philo has considerably more to say upon the subject of stars not 
astrology than upon that of magic. He was especially con- so^s nor 
cerned to deny that the stars were first causes or independent causes, 
gods. He chided the Chaldean adepts in genethlialogy for 
recognizing no other god than the universe and no other 
causes than those apparent to the senses, and for regarding 
fate and necessity as gods and the periodical revolutions of 
the heavenly bodies as the cause of all good and evil." Philo 
more than once exhorts the reader to follow Abraham's 
example in leaving Chaldea and the science of genethlialogy 
and coming to Charran to a comprehension of the true nature 
of God.^ He agreed with Moses that the stars should not 
be worshiped and that they had been created by God, and 
more than that, not created until the fourth day, in order 
that it might be perfectly clear to men that they were not 
the primary causes of things.* 

Philo, nevertheless, despite his attack on the Chaldeans, But 

believed in much which we should call astrological. The national 

. . . and virtu- 

stars, although not mdependent gods, are nevertheless divine ous ani- 

images of surpassing beauty and possess divine natures, al- GocTs vice- 
though they are not incorporeal beings. Philo distinguishes foys over 
between the stars, men, and other animals as follows. The 
beasts are capable of neither virtue nor vice; human beings 
are capable of both; the stars are intelligent animals, but 
incapable of any evil and wholly virtuous.^ They were 
native-born citizens of the world long before its first human 
citizen had been naturalized.^ God, moreover, did not post- 

* Vita Mosis, I, 48-50. Besides bus and Ilept rov deoTrkfiirTovs elvai 
discussion of Balaam in various rovs ovfipovs. 

Biblical commentaries, diction- ^ Ibid., Cap. 50. Huet, the noted 

aries, and encyclopedias, see Heng- French scholar of the 17th cen- 

stenberg, Die Geschichte Bileams tury, states in his edition of 

und seine Weissagungen, 1842. Origen that "Philo after his cus- 

^De migrat. Abrahanii, cap. 2^. torn repeats an opinion of Plato's 

^ Idem, and De somiiiis, cap. 10. and almost his very words for 

* De monarchia, I, i. De muiidi ... he asserts that the stars are 
opiUcio, cap. 14. not only animals but also the 

'^ De mundi opiUcio, caps. 18, 50 purest intellects." Migne PG, 
and 24. See also his De giganti- XVII, col. 978. 



They do 
not cause 
evil : but it 
is possible 
to predict 
the future 
from their 


pone their creation until the fourth day because superiors 
are subject to inferiors. On the contrary they are the vice- 
roys of the Father of all and in the vast city of this universe 
the ruling class is made up of the planets and fixed stars, 
and the subject class consists of all the natures beneath the 
moon.^ A relation of natural sympathy exists between the 
different parts of the universe, and all things upon the earth 
are dependent upon the stars. ^ 

Philo of course will not admit that evil is caused either 
by the virtuous stars or by God working through them. As 
has been said, he attributed evil to matter or to "the natural 
changes of the elements," ^ drawing a line between God 
and nature in much the fashion of the church fathers later. 
But he granted that "before now some men have conjectu- 
rally predicted disturbances and commotions of the earth 
from the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, and innumerable 
other events which have turned out most exactly true." ^ 
Philo's interest in astronomy and astrology is further sug- 
gested by his interpretation of the eleven stars of Joseph's 
dream as referring to the signs of the zodiac,^ Joseph him- 
self making the twelfth; and by his interpreting the ladder 
in Jacob's dream which stretched between earth and heaven 
as referring to the air,^ into which earth's evaporations dis- 
solve, while the moon is not pure ether like the other stars 
but itself contains some air. This accounts, Philo thinks, 
for the spots upon the moon — an explanation which I do 
not remember having met in subsequent writers. 

Josephus '^ and the Jews in general of Philo's time were 
equally devoted to astrology according to Miinter, who says : 
"Only their astrology was subordinated to theism. The one 
God always appeared as the master of the host of heaven. 
But they regarded the stars as living divine beings and 

^ De monarchia, I, i ; De mundi 
opiRcio, cap. 14. 

^ De monarchia, I, i; Dc migra- 
tione Abrahamij cap. 32; De 
mundi opiUcio, cap. 40. 

* Eusebius, De praep. Evang., 

cap. 13. 

* De mundi opiUcio, cap. 19. 

^ De somniis, II, 16. 

'Ibid., I, 22. 

'De hello Jud., V, 5, 5; Antiq., 
III. 7, 7-8. 




powers of heaven." ^ In the Talmud later we read that 
the hour of Abraham's birth was announced by the stars 
and that he feared from his observations of the constella- 
tions that he would go childless. Miinter also gives examples 
of the belief of the rabbis in the influence of the stars upon 
the destiny of the Jewish people and upon the fate of indi- 
vidual men, and of their belief that a star would announce 
the coming of the Messiah.^ 

From Philo's astrology it is an easy step to his frequent Perfection 
reveries concerning the perfection and mystic significance number 
of certain numbers, — a train of thought which was continued seven, 
by many of the church fathers, and is also found in various 
pagan writers of the Roman Empire.^ Thomas Browne in 
his enquiry into "Vulgar Errors" ^ was inclined to hold 
Philo even more responsible than Pythagoras or Plato for 
the dissemination of such doctrines. Philo himself recognizes 
the close connection between astrolog}' and number mys- 
ticism, when, after affirming the dependence of all earthly 
things upon the heavenly bodies, he adds : "It is in heaven, 
too, that the ratio of the number seven began." ^ Philo 
doubts if it is possible to express adequately the glories of 
the number seven, but he feels that he ought at least to 
attempt it and devotes a dozen chapters of his treatise on 
the creation of the world to it,^ to say nothing of other pas- 
sages. He notes that there are seven planets, seven circles 
of heaven, four quarters of the moon of seven days each, 
that such constellations as the Pleiades and Ursa Major 
consist of seven stars, and that children born at the end of 

^ Der Stern der Weisen (1827), 
p. 36. "Nur war ihre Astrologie 
dem Theismus untergeordnet. 
Der Eine Gott erschien immer als 
der Herrscher des Himmelsheeres. 
Sie betrachteten aber die Sterne 
als lebende gottliche Wesen und 
Machte des Himmels." 

'Miinter (1827), pp. 38-39, 43, 
45, etc. On the subject of Jewish 
astrology see also : D. Nielsen, 
Die altarabische Mondreligion 
und '^'^ mosaische Uberlieferung, 

Strasburg, 1904; F. Hommel, Der 
Gcstirndienst der alien Araber 
und die altisraelitische Uberlie- 
ferung, Munich, 1901. 

' Such as Aulus Gellius, Mac- 
robius, and Censorinus. These 
writers seem to have taken it from 
Varro. We have also noted num- 
ber mysticism in Plutarch's Es- 

* Browne (1650) IV, 12. 

^ De mimdi opificio, cap. 40. 

^ Ibid., caps. 30-42. 


seven months live, while those who see the light in the 
eighth month die. In diseases the seventh is a critical day. 
Also there are either seven ages of man's life, as Hippocrates 
says, or, in accordance with Solon's lines, man's three-score 
years and ten may be subdivided into ten periods of seven 
years each. The lyre of seven strings corresponds to the 
seven planets, and in speech there are seven vowels. There 
are seven divisions of the head — eyes, ears, nostrils, and 
mouth, seven divisions of the body, seven kinds of motion, 
seven things seen, and even the senses are seven rather than 
five if we add the vocal and generative organs.^ 

Philo's ideal sect, the Therapeutae, are wont to assemble 
as a prelude to their greatest feast at the end of seven 
weeks, "venerating not only the simple week of seven days 
but also its multiplied power," ^ but the chief festival itself 
occurs on the fiftieth day, "the most holy and natural of 
numbers, being compounded of the power of the right- 
angled triangle, which is the principle of the origination 
and condition of the whole." ^ 

The numbers four and six, however, yield little to seven 
and fifty in the matter of perfection. It was the fourth 
day that God chose for the creation of the heavenly bodies, 
and He did not need six days for the entire work of crea- 
tion, but it was fitting that that perfect work should be 
accomplished in a perfect number of days. Six is the product 
of the first female number, two, and the first male number, 
three. Indeed, the first three numbers, one, two, and three, 
whether added or multiplied, give six.^ As for four, there 
are that many elements and seasons ; it is the only number 
produced by the same number — two — whether added to 

^ For the later influence of such having the superior dignity of 
doctrines in the Mohammedan Prophet. The last of the forty- 
world see D. B. Macdonald, Mus- nine Imans, this Muhammad ibn 
lini Theology, Jurisprudence, and Isma'il, is the greatest and last of 
Constitutional Theory, 1903, pp. the Prophets." 
42-3. concerning the "Seveners" 3^^ ^-^^ contemplativa, cap. 8. 
and the Twelvers and the doc- j^ ^jjj ^^ recalled that the fifty 
t","?. of the hidden Iman. _ ^^^^^ ^^ ^^^ ^. ^^ Justinian 

Ilnd., Thus we have a series ^^^ similarly divided. 
of seven times seven Imans, the 

first, and thereafter each seventh, * De mundi opificio, cap. 3. 


itself or multiplied by itself ; it is the first square and as such 
the emblem of justice and equality; it also represents the 
cube or solid, as the number one stands for a point, two for 
a line, and three for a surface.^ Furthermore four is the 
source of "the all-perfect decade," since one and two and 
three and four make ten. At this we begin to suspect, and 
with considerable justification, as the writings of other dev- 
otees of the philosophy of numbers would show, that the 
number of perfect numbers is legion. We may not, how- 
ever, follow Philo much farther on this topic. Suffice it to 
add that he finds the fifth day fitting for the creation of 
animals possessed of five senses,^ while he divides the ten 
plagues of Egypt into three dealing with the more solid 
elements, earth and water, and performed by Aaron; three 
dealing with air and fire which were entrusted to Moses; 
the seventh was committed to both Aaron and Moses ; while 
the other three God reserved for Himself.^ 

Philo believed in a world of spirits, both the angels of Spirits of 
the Jews and the demons of the Greeks. When God said : the air. 
"Let us make man," Philo believed that He was addressing 
those assistant spirits who should be held responsible for 
the viciousness to which man alone of all creation is liable.* 
Of the divine rational natures Philo regarded some as incor- 
poreal, others like the stars as possessed of bodies.^ He also 
believed that there were spirits in the air as well as afar 
off in heaven. He could not see why the air should not be 
inhabited when there were stars in the ether and fish in 
the sea as well as other animals upon land.^ Indeed he 
argued that it would be absurd that the element which was 
essential for the vitality even of land and aquatic animals 
should have no living beings of its own. That these spirits 
of the air must be invisible did not trouble him, since the 
human soul is also invisible. 

^ Dc mundi opificto, caps. 15-16. 'Vita Mosis, I, 17. 

See also on perfect numbers On * De mundi opificio, cap. 24. 

the Allegories of the Sacred Laws. ^ Ibid., cap. 50. 

^Ibid., cap. 20. '^ De somniis, II, 21-22. 



Of Philo's five books on dreams only two are extant. 
They suffice to show, however, that he accepted the art of 
divination from dreams. Of dreams he distinguished three 
varieties : those direct from God which require no inter- 
pretation; those in which the dreamer's mind moves in 
unison with the world soul, and which are neither entirely 
clear nor yet very obscure — an instance is Jacob's vision of 
the ladder ; and third, those in which the mind is moved by a 
prophetic frenzy of its own, and which require the science 
of interpretation — such dreams were Joseph's concerning 
his brothers, and those of the butler and the baker at 
Pharaoh's court.^ 

The recent war and its accompaniments and sequels have 
brought home to some the conviction that our modern civili- 
zation is after all not vastly superior to that of some preced- 
ing ages. To those who still imagine that because modern 
science has freed us from much past superstition concerning 
nature, we are therefore free from political fakirs, from 
social absurdities, and from fallacious procedure and reason- 
ing in many departments of life, the reading may be recom- 
mended of a passage in Philo's treatise on dreams,^ in 
which he classifies the art of politics along with that of 
magic. He compares Joseph's coat of many colors to "the 
much-variegated web of political aflFairs" where along with 
"the smallest possible portion of truth" falsehoods of every 
shade of plausibility are interwoven; and he compares poli- 
ticians and statesmen to augurs, ventriloquists, and sorcerers, 
"men skilful in juggling and in incantations and in tricks 
of all kinds, from whose treacherous arts it is very difficult 
to escape." He adds that Moses very naturally represented 
Joseph's coat as blood-stained, since all statecraft is tainted 
with wars and bloodshed. 

Twelve centuries later we find Philo's association of 
politicians with magicians repeated by his compatriot Moses 
Maimonides in the More Nevochim or Guide for the Per- 

^ De soinniis, II, i. 

' Cap. 38. 




plexed^ a work which appeared almost immediately in Latin 
translation and from which this very passage is cited by 
Albertus Magnus in his discussion of divination by dreams.^ 
There are some men, says Albert, in whom the intellect is 
abundant and active and clear. Such men are akin to the 
superior substances, that is, to the angels and stars, and 
therefore Moses of Egypt, i.e., Maimonides, calls them 
sages. But there are others who, according to Albert, con- 
found true wisdom with sophistry and are content with 
mere probabilities and imaginations and are at home in. 
"rhetorical and civil matters." Maimonides, however, de- 
scribed this class a little differently, saying that in them the 
imaginative faculty is preponderant and the rational faculty 
imperfect. "Whence arises the sect of politicians, of legisla- 
tors, of diviners, of enchanters, of dreamers, , . . and of 
prestidigiteurs who work marvels by strange cunning and 
occult arts." ^ 

^11, Z7. 

'Cap. 5. 

^ Since I finished this chapter, I 
have noted that the "folk-lore in 
the Old Testament" has led Sir 
James Frazer to write a passage 
on "the harlequins of history" 
somewhat similar to that of Philo 
on Joseph's coat of many colors. 
After remarking that friends and 
foes behold these politicians of the 
present and historical figures of 
the future from opposite sides and 

A thought 
by Moses 

ides and 

see only that particular hue of the 
coat which happens to be turned 
toward them, Sir James concludes 
(1918), II, 502, "It is for the im- 
partial historian to contemplate 
these harlequins from every side 
and to paint them in their coats 
of many colors, neither altogether 
so white as they appeared to their 
friends nor altogether so black as 
they seemed to their enemies." 
But who can paint out the blood- 
stains ? 



Difficulty in defining Gnosticism — Magic and astrology in Gnosticism 
— Simon Magus as a Gnostic — Simon's Helen — The number thirty and 
the moon — Ophites and Sethians — A magical diagram — Employment of 
names and formulae — Seven metals and planets — Magic of Simon's 
followers — Magic of Marcus in the Eucharist— Other magic and occult 
lore of Marcus — Name and number magic — The magic vowels — Magic 
of Carpocrates — The Abraxas and the number 365 — Astrology of 
Basilides — The Book of Helxai — Epiphanius on the Elchasaites — The 
Book of the Laws of Countries — Personality of Bardesanes — Sin 
possible for men, angels, and stars — Does fate in the astrological sense 
prevail? — National laws and customs as a proof of free will — Pistis- 
Sophia; attitude to astrology — "Magic" condemned — Power of names 
and rites — Interest in natural science — "Gnostic gems" and astrology — 
The planets in early Christian art — Gnostic amulets in Spain — Syriac 
Christian charms — Priscillian executed for magic — Manichean manu- 
scripts — The Mandaeans. 

Gnosticism ^ is not easy to define and the term Gnostic 
appears to have been applied to a great variety of sects with 
a confusing diversity of beHefs, Many of the constituents 
and roots at least of Gnosticism were older than Christianity, 
and it is now the custom to associate the Gnosis or superior 
knowledge and revelation, which gives the movement its 
name, not with Greek philosophy or mysteries but with 
oriental speculation and religions. Anz ^ has been im- 
pressed by its connection with Babylonian star-worship; 
Amelineau ^ has urged its debt to Egyptian magic and 

* A good account of the Gnostic 
sources and bibliography of sec- 
ondary works on Gnosticism will 
be found in CE, "Gnosticism" 
(ig09) by J. P. Arendzen. 

* Anz, Zur Frage nach dem 
Ursprung des Gnosticismus, 1897, 

112 pp., in TU, XV, 4- 

^ Amelineau, Essai sur le gnos- 
ticisme cgypticn, ses developpe- 
mcnts ct son origine egyptienne, 
1887, 330 pp., in Musee Guimet, 
torn. 14 ; and various other publi- 
cations by the same author. 



religion ; Bousset ^ has argued for Persian origins. The main 
features of the great oriental religions which swept west- 
ward over the Roman Empire were shared by Gnosticism: 
the redeemer god, even the great mother goddess conception 
to some extent, the divinely revealed mysteries, the secret 
symbols, the dualism, and the cosmic theory. Gnosticism as 
it is known to us, however, is more closely connected with 
Christianity than with any other oriental religion or body 
of thought, for the extant sources consist almost entirely 
either of Gnostic treatises which pretend to be Christian 
Scriptures and were almost entirely written in Coptic in 
the second or third century of our era,^ or of hostile descrip- 
tions of Gnostic heresies by the early church fathers. How- 
ever, the philosopher Plotinus also criticized the Gnostics, as 
we have seen. 

What especially concerns our investigation is the great Magic and 
use made, or said to be made, by the Gnostics of sacred ^^ Gnof- 
formulae, symbols, and names of demons, and the preva- ticism. 
lence among them of astrological theory as shown by their 
widespread notion of the seven planets as the powers who 
have created our inferior and material world and who rule 
over its affairs. Gnosticism was deeply influenced by, albeit 
it to some extent represents a reaction against, the Baby- 
lonian star- worship and incantation of spirits. The seven 
planets and the demons occupy an important place in Gnostic 
myth because they intervene between our world and the 
world of supreme light, and their spheres must be traversed 
— much as in the Book of Enoch and Dante's Paradiso — 
both by the redeeming god in his descent and return and by 
any human soul that would escape from this world of fate, 
darkness, and matter. What encouragement there is for 
such views in the canonical Scriptures themselves may be 

* Bousset, Hauptprohleme der although announced to be edited 

Gnosis, 191 1 ; and "Gnosticism" by C. Schmidt in TU. Grenfell 

in EB, nth edition. and Hunt will soon publish "a 

*The dating is somewhat dis- small group of 21 papyri . . . 

puted. Some of the Gnostic writ- among which is a gnostic magical 

ings discovered in 1896 have, I text of some interest" : Grenfell 

believe, not yet been published, (1921), p. 151. 


inferred from the following passage in which Christ fore- 
tells His second coming: "Immediately after the tribula- 
tion of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon 
shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, 
and the powers of the heavens shall he shaken. And then 
shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then 
shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the 
Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and 
great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great 
sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect 
from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." ^ 
But in order to pass the demons and the spheres of the 
planets, who are usually represented as opposed to this, one 
must, as in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, know the pass- 
words, the names of the spirits, the sacred formulae, the 
appropriate symbols, and all the other apparatus suggestive 
of magic and necromancy which forms so large a part of 
the gnosis that gives its name to the system. This will be- 
come the more apparent from the following particular 
accounts of Gnostic sects and doctrines found in the works 
of the Christian fathers and in the scanty remains of the 
Gnostics themselves. The philosopher Plotinus we have 
already heard charge the Gnostics with resort to magic and 
sorcery, and with ascribing evil and fatal influence to the 
stars. At the same time we shrewdly suspect that Gnosticism 
has been made a scapegoat for the sins in these regards of 
both early Christianity and pagan philosophy. 
Simon Simon Magus, of whose magical exploits as recorded by 

Magus as many a Christian writer we shall treat in another chapter, 
a Gnostic. ... 

is also represented by the fathers as holding Gnostic doctrine, 

although some writers have contended that Simon the 
magician named in Acts was an entirely different person 
from Simon the heretic and author of The Great Declara- 
tion? Simon declared himself the Great Power of God, or 

^ The Gospel of Matthew, ^ St. George Stock, "Simon 

XXIV, 29-31. Not to mention Magus," in EB, nth edition. See 

Paul's "angels anH principalities also George Salmon in Diet. Chris. 

and powers." Biog., IV, 681. 



the Being who was over all, who had appeared in Samaria 
as the Father, in Judea as the Son, and to other nations as 
the Holy Spirit.^ In the Pseudo-Clementines Simon is rep- 
resented as arguing against Peter in characteristically Gnos- 
tic style that "he who framed the world is not the highest 
God, but that the highest God is another who alone is good 
and who has remained unknown up to this time." ^ Accord- 
ing to Epiphanius Simon claimed to have descended from 
heaven through the planetary spheres and spirits in the 
manner of the Gnostic redeemer. He is quoted as saying, 
"But in each heaven I changed my form in accordance with 
the form of those who were in each heaven, that I might 
escape the notice of my angelic powers and come down to 
the Thought, who is none other than she who is likewise 
called Prounikon and the Holy Spirit." Epiphanius further 
informs us that Simon believed in a plurality of heavens, 
assigned certain powers to each firmament and heaven, and 
applied barbaric names to these spirits or cosmic forces. 
"Nor," adds Epiphanius, "can anyone be saved unless he 
learns this mystic lore and offers such sacrifices to the 
Father of all through these archons and authorities." ^ 

The fathers tell us that Simon went about with a woman Simon's 
called Helena or Helen, who Justin Martyr says had for- 
merly been a prostitute.^ Simon is said to have called her 
the mother of all, through whom God had created the angels 
and aeons, who in their turn had formed the world and men. 
These cosmic powers had then, however, cast her down to 
earth, where she had been confined in various successive 
human and animal bodies. She seems to have obtained her 
name of Helen from the fact that it was for her that the 
Trojan war had been fought, an event which Simon seems 
to have subjected to much allegorical interpretation. He 
also spoke of Helen as "the lost sheep," whom he, the Great 

^ Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I, XXI ; Petavius, 55-60 ; Dindorf, 

23. II, 6-12. 
^Homilies, XVIII, i-. 

* Epiphanius, Paiiarion, A-E- * First Apology, cap. 26. 



The num- 
ber thirty 
and the 

Power, had descended from heaven to release from the bonds 
of the flesh. She was that Thought or Holy Spirit which 
we have heard him say he came down to recover. Simon's 
Helen also corresponds to Pistis-Sophia, who in the extant 
Gnostic work named after her descends through the twelve 
aeons, deceived by a lion- faced power whom they have 
formed to mislead her, and then reascends by the aid of 
Jesus or the true light. It seems fairly evident that the 
fathers ^ have taken literally and travestied by a scandalous 
application to an actual woman a beautiful Gnostic myth or 
allegory concerning the human soul. At the same time 
Simon's Helen reminds us of Jesus's relations with the 
woman taken in adultery, the woman of Samaria, and Mary 
Magdalene. Mary Magdalene, it may be noted, in the Gnos- 
tic writing, Pistis-Sophia, takes a role superior to the twelve 
disciples, a fact of which Peter complains to his Lord more 
than once. But Simon's Helen was that spirit of truth which 
lies latent in the human mind and which he endeavored to 
release by means of the philosophy, astrology, and magic of 
his time. May modern scientific method prove more suc- 
cessful in setting the prisoner free ! 

We find in the Pseudo-Clementines other details con- 
cerning Simon and Helen which bring out the astrological 
side of Gnosticism. We are told that John the Baptist had 
thirty disciples, a number suggestive of the days of the 
moon and also of the thirty aeons of the Gnostics of whom 
we elsewhere hear a great deal.^ But the revolution of the 
moon does not occupy thirty full days, so that we are not 
surprised to learn that one of these disciples was a woman 
and furthermore that she was the very Helen of whom we 
have been speaking. At least, she is so called in the Homilies 
of the Pseudo-Clement ; in the Recognitions she is actually 

^ Irenaeus and Epiphanius as 
cited above; also Hippolytus, 
Philosophumena, VI, 2-15; X, 8. 

^ See, for example, Irenaeus, 
Against Heresies, I, i, 3. where we 
are told among other things that 

the disciples of the Gnostic Valen- 
tinus affirm that the number of 
these aeons is signified by the 
thirty years of Christ's life which 
elapsed before He began His pub- 
lic ministry. 


called Luna or the Moon.^ After the death of John the 
Baptist Simon by his magic power supplanted Dositheus as 
leader of the thirty, and then fell in love with Luna and 
went about with her, proclaiming- that she was Wisdom or 
Truth, "brought down . , . from the highest heavens to 
this world." ^ The number thirty is again associated with 
Simon and Dositheus in a curiously insistent, although ap- 
parently unconscious, manner by Origen, who in one passage 
of his Reply to Celsus, written in the first half of the third 
century, expresses doubt whether thirty followers of Simon, 
the Samaritan magician, can be found in all the world, and 
in a second passage, while asserting that "Simonians are 
found nowhere throughout the world," adds that of the fol- 
lowers of Dositheus there are now not more than thirty in 

Similar to Simon's account of the heavens and of his Ophites 
descent through them were the teachings of the Ophites and Sethians. 
Sethians who, according to Irenaeus,* held that Christ 
"descended through the seven heavens, having assumed the 
likeness of their sons, and gradually emptied them of their 
power." These heretics also represented the "heavens, 
potentates, powers, angels, and creators as sitting in their 
proper order in heaven, according to their generation, and 
as invisibly ruling over things celestial and terrestrial." All 
ruling spirits were not invisible, however, since the Ophites 
and Sethians identified with the seven planets their Holy 
Hebdomad, consisting of laldabaoth, lao, Sabaoth, Adonaus 
(or, Adonai), Eloeus, Oreus, and Astanphaeus, — names 
often employed in the Greek magical papyri,^ in medieval 
incantations, and in the Jewish Cabbala. The Ophites and 
Sethians further asserted that when the serpent was cast 
down into the lower world by the Father, he begat six sons 

^ Homilies, II, 23-25 ; Recog- " G. Parthey, Zzvei griech. Zau- 

nitions, II, 8-9. berpapyri des Berliner Museums, 

^Homilies, II, 25. i860, p. 128; C. Wessely, Griech. 

^ Reply to Celsus, I, 57, and VI, Zaubcrpapyrus von Paris und 

II. London, 1888, p. 115; F. G. Ken- 

* Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I, yon, Greek Papyri in the British 

30. Museum, 1893, p. 469ff. 


who, with himself, constitute a group of seven corresponding 
and in contrast to the Holy Hebdomad which surround the 
Father. They are the seven mundane demons who are ever 
hostile to humanity. The Sethians of course took their 
name from Seth, son of Adam, who in the middle ages was 
regarded sometimes, like Enoch, as the especial recipient of 
divine revelation and as the author of sacred books. The 
historian Josephus states in his Jewish Antiquities that Seth 
and his descendants discovered the art of astronomy and 
that one of the two pillars on which they recorded their 
findings was still extant in his time, the first century.-"- 
Under the caption, Sethian Tablets of Curses, Wiinsch has 
published some magical imprecations scratched on lead tab- 
lets between 390 and 420 A. D. at Rome.^ Eight revela- 
tions ascribed to Adam and Seth are also' extant in Ar- 



A magical In Origen's Reply to Celsus is described a mystic dia- 

gram with details redolent of magic and astrological necro- 
mancy,"^ which Celsus had laid to the charge of Christians 
generally but which Origen declares is probably the product 
of the "very insignificant sect called Ophites." Origen him- 
self has seen this diagram or one something like it, and 
assures his readers that "we know the depth of these un- 
hallowed mysteries," but he declares that he has never met 
anybody anywhere who put any faith in this diagram. Ob- 
viously, however, such a diagram would not have been in 
existence if no one had ever had faith in it. Furthermore, 
its survival into Origen's time, when he asserts that men 
had ceased to use it, is evidence of the antiquity of the sect 
and the superstition. In this diagram ten distinct circles 
were united by a single circle representing the soul of all 

* Josephus, Antiquities, I, ii, 3. Apocrypha, Venice, 1896. 

a-D \X7" u r ir ■ • i j/ ''The diagram is described in 

R. Wunsch, Sethramsche Ver- ^^^ ^ ^ ^^ ^^i y^ g .^ 

nuchungstafeln aus Rom, Leip- ^^^ following description I have 

zig, i»9«. somewhat aUered the order. An 

' E. Preuschen, Die apocryph. attempt to reproduce this diagram 

gnost. Adamschrift, 1900. Mechi- will be found in CE, "Gnosticism," 

tarist collection of Old Testament p. 597. 


things and called Leviathan. Celsus spoke of the upper 
circles, of which at least some were in colors, as "those that 
are above the heavens.'' On these were inscribed such words 
and phrases as "Father and Son," "Love," "Life," "Knowl- 
edge," and "Understanding." Then there were "the seven 
circles of archontic demons," who are probably to be con- 
nected with the spheres of the seven planets. These seven 
ruling demons were represented by animal heads or figures, 
somewhat resembling the symbols of the four evangelists 
to be seen in the mosaics at Ravenna and elsewhere in Chris- 
tian art. The angel Michael was depicted by a sort of 
chimaera, the words of Celsus being, "The goat was shaped 
like a lion" ; Suriel, by a bull ; Raphael, by a dragon ; Gabriel, 
by an eagle; Thautabaoth, by a bear; Erataoth, by a dog; 
and Thaphabaoth or Onoel, by an ass. The diagram was 
divided by a thick black line called Gehenna and beneath the 
lowest circle was placed "the being named Behemoth." 
There was also "a square pattern" with inscriptions con- 
cerning the gates of paradise, a flaming circle with a flaming 
sword as its diameter guarding the tree of knowledge and 
of life, "a barrier inscribed in the shape of a hatchet," and a 
rhomboid with the words, "The foresight of wisdom." 
Celsus further mentioned a seal with which the Father im- 
presses the Son, who says, "I have been anointed with white 
ointment from the tree of life," and seven angels who con- 
tend with the seven ruling demons for the soul of the dying 

Origen further informs us of the forms of salutation Employ- 
to each ruling spirit employed by "those sorcerers," as they ™ames and 
pass through "the fence of wickedness" or the gate to the formulae, 
realm of each spirit. The names of the spirits are now 
given as laldabaoth, who is the lion-like archon and with 
whom the planet Saturn is in sympathy, lao or Jah, Sabaoth, 
Adonaeus, Astaphaeus, Aloaeus or Eloaeus, and Horaeus. 
The following is an example of the salutations or invoca- 
tions addressed to these spirits : "Thou, O second lao, who 
shinest by night, who art the ruler of the secret mysteries 



metals and 

Magic of 



of Son and Father, first prince of death, and portion of the 
innocent, bearing now thine own beard as symbol, I am 
ready to pass through thy realm, having strengthened him 
who is born of thee by the living word. Grace be with me; 
Father, let it be with me!" Origen also states that the 
makers of this diagram have borrowed from magic the 
names laldabaoth, Astaphaeus, and Horaeus, while the other 
four are names of God drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures. 

It is worth noting that immediately before this account 
of the diagram Celsus had described similar Persian mys- 
teries of Mithras, in which seven heavens through which 
the soul has to pass were arranged in an ascending scale 
like a ladder.^ Each successive heaven was entered by a 
gate of a metal corresponding to the planet in question, 
lead for Saturn, tin for Venus, copper for Jupiter, iron for 
Mercury, a mixed metal for Mars, silver for the moon, and 
gold for the sun. This association of metals and planets 
became a common feature of medieval alchemy. At the 
same time the passage is said to be our chief literary source 
for the mysteries of Mithras.^ 

The Simonians, according to Irenaeus, were as addicted 
to magic as their founder had been, employing exorcisms 
and incantations, love-philters and enchantments, familiar 
spirits and "dream-senders." "And whatever other curi- 
ous arts may be resorted to are eagerly employed by them." 
Menander, the immediate successor of Simon in Samaria, 
was "a perfect adept in the practice of magic" and taught 
that by means of it one could overcome the angels who had 
created this world. ^ In a treatise on rebaptism, falsely as- 
cribed to Cyprian but very likely contemporary with him, 
it is stated that the Simonians regard their baptism as su- 
perior to that of orthodox Christians, because when they 
descend into the water fire appears upon its surface. The 
writer thinks that this is done by some trick, or that there 
is some natural explanation of it, or that they merely imag- 

* Reply to Celsus, VI, 22. 
*Anz. (1897), p. 78. 

^ Adv. haer., I, 23. 


ine that they see a flame on the water, or that It is the 
work of some evil one and of magic power.^ Epiphanius 
states that Simon employed such obscene substances as 
semen and menstruum in his magic," but this seems to be a 
slander, at least against Gnosticism, since in a passage of 
the Gnostic Book of the Saznour, adjoined to the Pistis- 
Sophia, Thomas asks Jesus what shall be the punishment of 
men who eat ''semen maris et menstruum feminae" mixed 
with lentils, saying as they do so, "We believe in Esau and 
Jacob," and is told that this is the worst of sins and that 
the souls of those committing it will be absolutely blotted 

Next to Simon Magus, Marcus was the Gnostic and Magic of 
heretic most notorious as a practitioner of the magic arts, as jn^the^^ 
Irenaeus states at the close of the second century, and Eucharist. 
Hippolytus and Epiphanius repeat in the third and fourth 
centuries respectively.* In performing the Eucharist he 
would change white wine placed in three wine cups into three 
different colors, one blood-red, one purple, and one dark 
blue, according to Epiphanius, while Irenaeus and Hippoly- 
tus more vaguely state, although they lived closer to Mar- 
cus's time, that he gave the wine a purple or reddish hue as 
if it had been changed into blood, an alteration which 
Marcus himself regarded as a manifestation of divine grace. 
Epiphanius attributes the change to an incantation muttered 
by Marcus while pretending to perform the Eucharist. 

* Wm. Hartel, S. Thasci Caecili * Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I, 

Cypriani Opera Omnia, Pars III, 13, et seq.; Hippolytus, Philo- 

Opcra Spuria (1870), p. 90, De sophumena, VI, 34, et seq.; 

rebaptismate, cap. 16, "quod si Epiphanius, Panarion, ed. Din- 

aliquo lusu perpetrari potest, sicut dorf, II, 217, et seq. (ed. Petav., 

adfirmantur plerique huiusmodi 232, et seq.). Concerning Marcus 

lusus Anaxilai esse, sive naturale see further TertulHan, De prae- 

quid est quo pacto possit hoc con- script., L; Theodoret, Haeret. 

tingere, sive illi putant hoc se Fab., I, 9; Jerome, Epist., 29; Au- 

conspicere, sive maligni opus et gustine, Haer., xiv. "D'apres 

magicum virus ignem potest in Reuvens," says Berthelot (1885), 

aqua exprimere." p. 57, "le papyrus n° 75 de Leide 

'Contra haercses, II, 2. renferme un melange de recettes 

' ' magiques, alchimiques, et d idees 

' Pistis-Sophia, ed. Schwartze gnostiques; ces dernieres em- 

and Peter mann (1851), pp. 386-7; pruntees aux doctrines de Mar- 

ed. Mead (1896), p. 390. cus." 



magic and 
lore of 


Name and 



Hippolytus, who ascribes Marcus's feats partly to sleight- 
of-hand and partly to demons, in this case charges that he 
furtively dropped some drug into the wine. Marcus was 
also accustomed to fill a large cup from a smaller one so 
that it would overflow, a marvel which Hippolytus again 
tries to account for by stating that "very many drugs, when 
mingled in this way with liquid substances" temporarily 
increase their volume, "especially when diluted in wine." 

Irenaeus, who is quoted verbatim by Epiphanius, fur- 
ther states that Marcus had a familiar demon by whose aid 
he was able to prophesy, and that he pretended to confer 
this gift upon others. He also accuses Marcus of seducing 
women by means of philters and love potions which he 
compounded. Hippolytus does not make these charges, but 
unites with the others in describing at length Marcus's the- 
ory of mystic names and his symbolical and mystical inter- 
pretation of the letters of the alphabet and of numbers. 
Marcus made various calculations based upon the number 
of letters in a name, the number of letters in the name of 
each letter, and so on. When Christ, whose ineffable name 
has thirty letters, said, "I am Alpha and Omega," He was 
believed by Marcus to have displayed the dove, whose num- 
ber is 80 1, These reveries "are mere bits," as Hippolytus 
says, of astrological theory and Pythagorean philosophy. 
We shall find them perpetuated in the middle ages in the 
method of divination known as the Sphere of Pythagoras. 

Such symbolism and mysticism concerning numbers and 
letters seldom indeed remain a matter of mere theory but 
readily lend themselves to operative magic. Thus Hippolytus 
can speak in the same breath of "magical arts and Pythag- 
orean numbers" or tell that Pythagoras himself "also 
touched on magic, as they say, and himself discovered an 
art of physiognomy, laying down as a basis certain numbers 
and measures." Or note a third passage where Hippolytus 
is discussing Egyptian theology based on the theory of 
numbers.^ After treating of the monad, duad, and enneads, 

* Hippolytus, Philosophumcna, VI, preface; I, 2; and IV, 43-4. 


of the four elements in pairs, of the 360 parts of the circle, 
of "ascending and beneficent and masculine names" which 
end in odd numbers, and of feminine and malicious and 
descending- names which terminate in even numbers, Hippo- 
lytus continues, "Moreover, they assert that they have cal- 
culated the word, 'Deity.' Now this name is an even num- 
ber, and they write it down and attach it to the body and 
accomplish cures by it. In the same way an herb which 
terminates in this number is bound around the body and 
operates by reason of a similar calculation of the number. 
Nay, even a doctor cures the sick by such calculations." 
Similarly Censorinus states that the number seven is as- 
cribed to Apollo and used in the cure of bodily ills, while 
nine is associated with the Muses and heals mental dis- 
eases.^ But to return to Gnosticism. 

The seven vowels were much employed by the Gnostics, The magic 
undoubtedly as symbols for the seven planets and the spirits 
associated with them, but as symbols possessed of magic 
power as well as of mystic significance. "The Saviour and 
His disciples are supposed in the midst of their sentences to 
have broken out in an interminable gibberish of only vowels ; 
magic spells have come down to us consisting of vowels by 
the fourscore ; on amulets the seven vowels, repeated accord- 
ing to all sorts of artifices, form a very common inscrip- 
tion." ^ As the seven planets made the music of the spheres, 
so the seven vowels seem to have represented the musical 
scale, "and many a Gnostic sheet of vowels is in fact a sheet 
of music." ^ 

Other heretics with Gnostic views who were accused of Magic of 
magic by the fathers were the followers of Carpocrates, who ^SSg" 
employed incantations and spells, philters and potions, who 
attracted spirits to themselves and made light of the cosmic 
angels, and who pretended to have great power over all 

^ Censorinus, De die natali, caps. ' Ruelle et Poiree, Le chant 

7 and 14. gnostico-magique, Solesmes, 1901. 

'Arendzen, Gnosticism, in CE, 




and the 

of Basi- 

The Book 
of Helxai. 

things so that they were able by their magic to satisfy 
every desire.^ 

Saturninus and Basilides were charged with "practicing 
magic, and employing images, incantations, invocations, 
and every other kind of curious art." They also believed 
in a supreme power named Abrasax or Abraxas, whose 
number was 365 ; and they contended that there were 365 
heavens and as many bones in the human body; "and they 
strive to set forth the names, principles, angels, and powers 
of the 365 imagined heavens," ^ 

Hippolytus gives further indication of the astrological 
leanings of Basilides, who held that each thing had its own 
particular time, and supported his view by citing the Magi 
gazing wistfully at the star of Bethlehem and the remark of 
Christ Himself, "Mine hour is not yet come." ^ I suppose 
that by this Hippolytus means to suggest that Basilides held 
the astrological doctrine of elections; Basilides further af- 
firmed, according to Hippolytus, that Jesus was "mentally 
preconceived at the time of the generation of the stars ; and 
of the complete return to their starting point of all the sea- 
sons in the vast conglomeration," that is, at the end of the 
astronomical magmis annus, variously reckoned as of 36,000 
or 15,000 years in duration. 

In his Refutation of all Heresies * Hippolytus tells of an 
Alcibiades from Apamea in Syria who in his time brought 
to Rome a book supposed to contain revelations made to a 
holy man, Elchasai or Helxai, by an angel ninety-six miles 
in height and from sixteen to twenty-four miles in breadth 
and leaving a footprint fourteen miles long. This angel 
was the Son of God, and was accompanied by a female of 
corresponding size who was the Holy Spirit. This appari- 
tion and revelation was accompanied by a preaching of a 
new remission of sins in the third year of Trajan's reign, 
at which time we are led to suppose that the Book of Helxai 

* Irenaeus, I, 25 ; Hippolytus, 
VII, 20; Epiphanius, ed. Dindorf, 
II, 64. 

^Irenaeus, I, 24; Epiphanius, ed. 

Dindorf, II, 27-8. 

^ Hippolytus, VII, 14-15. 

*The more correct title for the 
Philosophumena, see IX, 8-12. 


came into existence. It imposed secrecy upon those initiated 
into its mysteries. The sect, according to Hippolytus, were 
much given to magic, astrology, and the number mysticism 
of Pythagoras. The Elchasaites employed incantations and 
formulae to cure persons bitten by mad dogs or afflicted with 
disease. In such cases and also in the case of rebaptism for 
the remission of sins it was customary with them to invoke 
or adjure "seven witnesses," not however in this case the 
planets, but "the heaven, and the water, and the holy spirits, 
and the angels of prayer, and the oil (or, the olive), and 
the salt, and the earth." Hippolytus declares that their 
formulae of this sort were "very numerous and very ridic- 
ulous." They dipped consumptives and persons possessed 
by demons in cold water forty times in seven days. They 
believed in the astrological doctrine of elections, since their 
sacred book warned them not to baptize or begin other im- 
portant undertakings upon those days which were governed 
by the evil stars. They also seem to have predicted political 
events from the stars, foretelling that three years after 
Trajan's subjugation of the Parthians "war rages between 
the impious angels of the northern (constellations), and on 
this account all kingdoms of impiety are in confusion." 

In the next century Epiphanius adds one or two further Epipha- 
details to Hippolytus' account of the Elchasaites. Besides g^cha-^^^ 
the list of seven witnesses already given he mentions another saites. 
slightly different one: salt, water, earth, wheat, heaven, 
ether, and wind. He also tells of two sisters in the time 
of Constantine who were supposed to be descendants of 
Helxai. One of them was still alive the last Epiphanius 
knew, and crowds followed "this witch" to collect the dust 
of her footprints or her spittle to use in curing diseases.^ 

We possess an important document for the attitude of The Book o) 

early Christianity and Gnosticism towards astrology in The ^Countries 

Dialogue concerning Fate or The Book of the Laws of 

Countries of Bardesanes or Bardaisan.- The complete 

^Dindorf, II, log-io, 507-9. Haase, Zur hardesanischen Gnosis, 

'A. Merx, Bardesanes der Leipzig, 1910, in TU, XXIV, 4. 
letste Gnostiker, Jena, 1864. F. 


Syriac text is extant ; ^ there is a long and somewhat modi- 
fied extract adopted from it in the Latin Recognitions of 
Clement,^ and briefer fragments in the Greek fathers. 
Strictly speaking, the text seems to be written by some fol- 
lower of Bardesanes named Philip who represents his master 
as discussing the problem of human free will with Avida, 
himself, and other disciples. The bulk of the treatise is in 
any case put in Bardesanes' mouth and it probably reflects 
his views with fair accuracy. Eusebius ascribed it to Barde- 
sanes himself. 
Person- Bardesanes (154-222 A. D.) was born in Edessa. He 

Barde- Spent most of his life in Mesopotamia but for a time went to 
sanes, Armenia as a missionary. His many works in Syriac in- 

cluded apologies for Christianity, attacks upon heresies, and 
numerous hymns, but the only work extant is the treatise we 
are about to examine, with the possible exception of The 
Hymn of the Soul ^ ascribed to him and contained in the 
Syriac Acts of St. Thomas. His doctrines were regarded 
by Ephraem Syrus and others as tainted with Gnostic heresy. 
He is often represented as a follower of Valentinus, but the 
ancient authorities, such as Epiphanius and Eusebius, dis- 
agree as to whether he degenerated from orthodoxy to 
Valentinianism or reformed in the opposite direction. In 
the dialogue which we consider he is represented as a 
Christian, but his remarks have often been thought to have 
a Gnostic flavor. F. Nau, however, has argued that he was 
not a Gnostic and that the statements in question in the dia- 
logue can be explained as purely astrological.^ 
Sin pos- The treatise opens with the query, why did not God 

men ^°^ make men so that they could not sin? The reply of course 
angels, is that moral freedom for good or evil is a greater gift of 
God than compulsory morality. By virtue of his individual 
freedom of action man is equal to the angels, some of whom, 

* English translation in AN, Bevan, 1897; F. C. Burkett, 1899; 

VIII, 723-34. G. R. S. Mead, 1906. 

"Recognitions, IX, 17 and 19- * F. Nau, Une biographic ine- 

2Q. dite de Bardesane I'astrologue, 

'English translations by A. A. 1897. 


too, have sinned v^^ith the daughters of men and fallen, and 
is superior even to the sun, moon, and signs of the zodiac 
v^hich are fixed in their courses. The stars, hov^ever, as in 
The Book of Enoch, "are not absolutely destitute of all 
freedom" and will be held responsible at the day of judg- 
ment. Presently some of them are called evil. 

After some discussion v^hether man does wrong from Does fate 
his nature, the treatise turns to the question, how far are a^troLgi- 

men controlled by fate, that is, by the power of the seven cal sense 
. . prevail? 

planets m accordance with the doctrine of the Chaldeans, 

which is the term here usually employed for astrologers. 
Some men attack astrology as "a lying invention" and hold 
that the human will is free and that such evils as man can- 
not avoid are due to chance or to divine punishment but not 
to the stars. Between these extremes Bardesanes takes mid- 
dle ground. He believes that there is such a force in the 
stars, whom he refers to as Potentates and Governors, as the 
fate of which the astrologers speak, but that this fate evi- 
dently does not rule everything, since it is itself established 
by the one God who imposed upon the stars and elements 
that motion in conformity with which "intelligences under- 
go change when they descend to the soul, and souls under- 
go change when they descend to bodies," a statement which 
appears to have a Gnostic flavor. This fate furthermore 
is limited by nature on the one hand and human free ^yill 
on the other hand. The vital processes and periods which 
are common to all men, such as birth, generation, child- 
bearing, eating, drinking, old age, and death, Bardesanes 
regards as governed by nature. "The body," he says, "is 
neither hindered nor helped by fate in the several acts it 
performs," a view which most astrologers would probably 
not accept. On the contrary, in Bardesanes' opinion wealth 
and honors, power and subjection, sickness and health, are 
controlled by fate which often disturbs the regular course 
of nature. This is because in genesis or the nativity the 
stars, some of which work with and some against nature, 


are in conflict. In short, some stars are good and some are 
National If nature is thus often upset by the stars, fate in its 

customs as ^^^^ "^^^ ^^ resisted and overpowered by man's exercise of 
a proof will. This assertion Bardesanes proceeds to prove by the 
will. argument which has given to the dialogue the title. The Book 

of the Laws of the Countries, and which we find much re- 
peated in subsequent writers. Briefly it is that in various 
nations certain laws are enforced upon, or customs ob- 
served by all the people alike regardless of their diverse 
individual horoscopes. In illustration of this are listed va- 
rious prohibitions and practices fondly supposed by Barde- 
sanes and his audience to characterize the Seres, Brahmans, 
Persians, Geli, Bactrians, Arabs, Britons, Parthians, Ama- 
zons, and other peoples. Savage tribes are mentioned among 
whom there are no artists, bankers, perfumers, musicians, 
and poets to fit the nativities decreed by the constellations for 
certain times. Bardesanes is aware of the astrological the- 
ory of seven zones or climes, by which the science of individ- 
ual horoscopes is corrected and modified, but he contends 
that there are many different laws in each of these zones, 
and would be, even if the number were raised to twelve ac- 
cording to the number of the signs or to thirty-six after 
the decans. He also contends that men retain their laws 
or customs when they migrate to other climes, and adduces 
the fidelity of Jews and Christians to the commandments 
of their respective religions as a further illustration of the 
triumph of free will over the stars. He concedes, how- 
ever, as before that "in every country and in every nation 
there are rich and poor, and rulers and subjects, and peo- 
ple in health and those who are sick, each one according as 
fate and his nativity have affected him." Incidentally to 
the foregoing discussion it is affirmed that the astrology of 
Egypt and that of the Chaldeans in Babylon are identical. 
At the close of the treatise is appended a note stating that 
Bardesanes estimated the duration of the world at six 
thousand years on the basis of sixty as the least number of 


years in which the seven planets complete an even number 
of revolutions. 

If the work ascribed to Bardesanes is not certainly The 


Gnostic, the Pistis-Sophia is, and we turn next to it and first Sophia: 

of all to its attitude towards astroloe^y. This treatise is attitude to 

. astrology, 

extant in a Coptic codex of the fifth or sixth century; ^ the 

Greek original text was probably written in the second half 
of the third century. It gives the revelations made by Jesus 
to his disciples after He had ascended to heaven and re- 
turned again to them. When He ascended through the heav- 
ens, He changed the fatal influence of the lords of the 
spheres and made the planets turn to the right for six 
months of the year, whereas before they had faced the left 
continually." In a long passage near the close of the Pistis- 
Sophia proper ^ Jesus asserts the absolute control of human 
destiny hitherto by "the rulers of the fate" and describes 
how they fashion the new soul, control the process of gen- 
eration and of the formation of the child in the womb, and 
decree every event of life down to the day and manner of 
death. Only by the Gnostic key to the mysteries can one 
escape their control.^ In the following Book of the Saviour, 
moreover, even the finding of this key is subjected to astral 
control, since a constellation is described under which all 
souls descending to this world will be just and good and 
will discover the mysteries of light.^ 

The Pistis-Sophia assumes the usual attitude of con- "Magic" 
demnation of magic so-called. Among the evils which Jesus denined. 
warns his followers to renounce are superstition and invo- 
cations and drugs or magic potions.^ One object of his re- 
ducing by one-third the power of the lords of the spheres 
when He ascended through the heavens was that men might 
not henceforth invoke them by magic rites for evil pur- 
eed. Coptic and Latin by M. G. manuscript occurs the Book of the 
Schwartze and J. H. Petermann, Saviour of which we shall also 
1851 ; French translation by E. treat. 
Amelineau, 1895; English by G. R. ^Pistis-Sophia, 25-6. 

S. Mead, 1896; German by C. 'Ibid., 336-50. 

Schmidt, 1905. The Coptic text is * Ibid., 355, et seq. 

thickly interspersed with Greek ^ Ibid., 389-90. 

words and phrases. In the same "Ibid., 255 and 258, 



of names 
and rites. 

in natural 

poses. Marvels may still, however, be accomplished by 
"those who know the mysteries of the magic of the thirteenth 
aeon" or power above the spheres.^ 

But while magic is renounced, great faith is shown in 
the power of names and rites. Thus after a description of 
the dragon of outer darkness and the twelve main dungeons 
into which it divides and the animal faces and names of 
the twelve rulers thereof, who evidently represent in an in- 
accurate fashion the signs of the zodiac, it is added that 
even unrepentant sinners, if they know the mystery of any 
one of these twelve names, can escape from these dungeons.^ 
In the Book of the Saviour Jesus not only utters several 
long lists of strange and presumably magic words by way 
of invocation to the Power or powers above, but these are 
accompanied by careful observance of ceremonial. On both 
occasions Jesus and the disciples are clad in linen.^ In the 
first case the disciples are carefully grouped with reference 
to the points of the compass, towards which Jesus turns suc- 
cessively as He utters the magic words standing at a sacri- 
ficial altar. The result of this ceremony and invocation was 
that the heavens were displaced and the earth left behind 
and that Jesus and the disciples found themselves in the 
region of mid-air. Before uttering the other invocation 
Jesus commanded that fire and vine branches be brought, 
placed an offering on the flame, and carefully arranged two 
vessels of wine, two cups of water, and as many pieces of 
bread as there were disciples. In this case the object was 
to remit the sins of the disciples. In the Book of Jeu in 
the Bruce Papyrus there is a perfect riot of such magic 
names and invocations, seals and diagrams, and accompany- 
ing ceremonial.* 

The interest of the Gnostics in natural science is seen in 
the list of things that will be known by one who has pene- 

^ Pistis-Sophia, 29-30. 692 pp., in TU, VIII, 2, with Ger- 

' Ibid., 319-35. man translation of the Coptic text 

* Ibid., 357-8, 375-6. at pp. 142-223. Portions have been 

* Carl Schmidt, Gnostische translated into English by G. R. 
Schrifte in koptischer Sprache S. Mead, Fragments of a Faith 
aus dem codex Brucianus, 1892, Forgotten, 1900. 


trated all the mysteries and fully entered upon the inheri- 
tance of the kingdom of light. Not only will he understand 
why there is light and darkness, and why sin and vice exist 
and life and death, but also why there are reptiles and wild 
beasts and why they shall be destroyed, why there are birds 
and beasts of burden, why there are gems and precious 
metals, why there are brass, iron and steel, lead, glass, wax, 
herbs, waters, "and why the wild denizens of the sea." Why 
there are four points of the compass, why demons and men, 
why heat and cold, stars, winds, and clouds, frost, snow, 
planets, aeons, decans, and so on and so forth.^ 

King has shown that many of the so-called "Gnostic "Gnostic 
gems" are purely astrological talismans and that "only a fstrology, 
very small minority amidst their multitude present any 
traces of the influence of Christian doctrines." ^ Many are 
for medicinal or magical purposes rather than of a religious 
character. Some nevertheless are engraved with the truly 
Gnostic figure of Pantheus Abraxas which King regards as 
"the actual invention of Basilides." Another common sym- 
bol, borrowed from Egypt, is the Agathodaemon, which by 
the third century had become the popular designation of the 
hooded snake of Egypt, or Chnuphis or Chneph, a great 
serpent with a lion's head encircled by a crown of seven 
or twelve rays, representing the planets or signs. Often the 
seven Greek vowels are placed at the tips of the seven rays. 
On the obverse of the gem the letter "s" is engraved thrice 
and traversed by a straight rod, a design probably meant 
to depict a snake twisting about a wand. We are reminded, 
not only with King of the club of Aesculapius, but of 
Aaron's rod, the magicians of Pharaoh, and the serpent 
lifted up in the wilderness; also of Lucian's tale of the pre- 
tended discovery of the god Asclepius by the pseudo- 
prophet, Alexander. At least one "Gnostic amulet" has on 
the back the legend "lao Sabao" (th).^ 

^ Pistis-Sophia, 205-15. Precious Stones and Gems, Lon- 

' C. W. King, The Gnostics and don, 1865. 
their Remains, 1887, pp. xvi- ^ A. B. Cook, Zeus, p. 235, citing 

xviii, 215-8. Also his The Natural J. Spon, Miscellanea eruditae an- 

History, Ancient and Modern, of tiquitatis, Lyons, 1685, p. 297. 




in early 

in Spain. 




The influence of astrology may be seen in other and 
more certainly genuine works of early Christian art than 
many of the so-called Gnostic gems. On a lamp in the 
catacombs Christ is depicted as the good shepherd with a 
lamb on His shoulder. Above His head are the seven planets, 
although the sun and moon are shown again at either side, 
and about His feet press seven lambs, perhaps an indication 
that He is freeing the peoples of the seven climes from the 
fatal influence of the stars. In the Poemander attributed to 
Hermes it is stated that there are seven peoples from the 
seven planets. On a gem of perhaps the third century a 
similar scene is engraved except that the sun and moon are 
not shown apart from the seven planets, and that the lamb on 
Christ's shoulders is counted as one of the seven, so that 
there are but six at His feet.^ 

"Gnostic amulets and other works of art" are occasion- 
ally found in Spain, especially the Asturian northwest which 
remained Christian at the time of the Mohammedan con- 
quest of the rest of the peninsula. One ring is inscribed with 
the sentence, "Zeus, Serapis, and lao are one." On another 
octagonal ring are Greek letters signifying the Gnostic 
Anthropos or father of wisdom. A stone is carved with a 
candelabrum and the seven planets, "the sacred hebdomad 
of the Chaldeans." ^ 

Gollancz in his Selection of Charms from Syriac Manu- 
scripts presents a number of spells and incantations which, 
whether any of them are Gnostic or not, certainly seem to 
be Christian, since they mention the divine persons of Chris- 
tianity, Mary, and various Biblical characters.^ 

At the close of the fourth century the views of the Gnos- 
tics were revived in Gaul and Spain by Priscillian, who 

Reitzenstein, Poimandres, pp. 
1 1 1-3. On the planets in later 
medieval art see Fuchs, Die 
Ikonographie dcr 7 Plancten in 
der Kunst Italiens bis sum Aus- 
gange des Mittelalters, Munich, 

* E. S. Bouchier, Spain under 
the Roman Empire, p. 125. 

' Hermann Gollancz, Selection 
of Charms from Syriac Manu- 
scripts, 1898; also pp. 77-97 in 
Acts of International Congress of 
Orientalists, Sept., 1897; Syriac 
text and English translation. 


seems to have been much influenced by astrology and who Pnscillian 
w^as put to death at Treves in 385 A. D. on a charge of magic, for magic. 
He confessed under torture, but w^as afterwards thought 
innocent. We are not told, however, what the magical prac- 
tices were of which he was accused.^ Both Sulpicius Sev- 
erus and Isidore of Seville ^ state that he was accused of 
maleilcmm, which should mean witchcraft, sorcery, or mag- 
ical operations with the intent to injure someone. But fur- 
ther details are wanting, except that Sulpicius calls Pris- 
cillian a man "more pufifed up than was right with the 
knowledge of profane things, and who was further believed 
to have practiced magic arts since adolescence," while Isi- 
dore states that Bishop Itacius (Ithaicus), who was largely 
responsible for pushing the charges against Priscillian, 
showed in a book which he wrote against Priscillian's 
heresy that "a certain Marcus of Memphis, most learned 
in magic art, was a disciple of Mani and master of Pris- 
cillian." Priscillian himself states in his extant works that 
Itacius had accused him of magic in 380. As the final trial 
proceeded, Itacius gave way as accuser to a public prosecutor 
{Hsci patronus) who continued the case on behalf of the 
emperor Maximus who seems to have had his eye upon 
Priscillian's large fortune. St. Martin of Tours in vain 
obtained from Maximus a promise that Priscillian should 
not be put to death. ^ But his execution brought his per- 
secutor Itacius into such bad odor that he was excommuni- 
cated and condemned to exile for the rest of his life. 

We have just heard that Priscillian was taught by a dis- Manichean 
ciple of Mani, while Ephraem Syrus states that Bardesanes ^^^""scnpts, 

^ In 1885-1886 eleven tracts by Etudes, Fasc. 169), which super- 

Priscillian were discovered by G. sedes the earlier works of Paret, 

Schepss in a Wiirzburg MS. They 1891 ; Dierich, 1897; and Edling, 

shed, however, little light upon the 1902. 

question whether he was addicted ^ Sulpicii Severi Historia Sacra, 

to magic. They have been pub- II, 46-51 (Migne, PL, XX, 155, et 

lished in Priscilliani quae super- seq.) S. Isidori Hispalensis 

sunt., etc., ed. G. Schepss, 1889, Episcopi, De viris itlustrihus. Cap. 

in CSEL, XVIII. 15 (Migne, PL, LXXXIII, 1092). 

See also E. Ch. Babut, Pris- ' Realencyklopddie fur protes- 

cillien et la Priscillienisnie, Paris, tantische Theologie, XVI, 63. 
1909 {Bibl. d. l'£cole d. Haute s 


was the teacher of Mani. Augustine in his youth, when a 
follower of the Manicheans, had been devoted to astrology. 
This connection between Gnosticism and astrology and 
Manicheism has been further attested by the fragments of 
Manichean manuscripts recently discovered in central Asia.* 
In them the sun-god and moon-god and five other planets 
play a prominent part. Besides the five planets we have five 
elements — ether, wind, light, fire, and water — five plants, 
five trees, and five beings with souls — man, quadrupeds, rep- 
tiles, aquatic, and flying animals. The five gods or luminous 
bodies are represented as good forces who imprisoned five 
kinds of demons ; but the devil had his revenge by imprison- 
ing luminous forces in man, whom he made a microcosm of 
the universe. / nd whereas the good spirit had created sun 
and moon, the devil formed male and female. The great 
sage of beneficent light then appeared in the world and 
brought forth from his own five members five liberators — 
pity, contentment, patience, wisdom, and good faith — corre- 
sponding to the five elements just as among the Christians 
we shall find four virtues and four elements. Then ensued 
the struggle of the old man with the new man. Although 
we are commonly told that idolatry and magic were strictly 
prohibited by the Manicheans, the envoy of light is in one 
text represented as "employing great magic prayers" in his 
effort to deliver living beings. When men eat living beings, 
they offend against the five gods, the earth dry and moist, 
the five orders of animate beings, the five different herbs 
and five trees. Other numbers than five appear in these 
Manichean fragments : four seals of light and four praises, 
four courts with iron barriers; three vestments and three 
wheels and three calamities; ten vows and ten layers of 
heavens above, and eight layers of earth beneath; twelve 

* My following statements in the astuanift, Das Bussgebet der Mani- 

text are based upon E. Chavannes chder, Petrograd, 1909; A. v. Le 

et P. Pelliot, Un traite manicheen Coq, Chuastuanift, ein Sundenbe- 

retrouve en Chine, 1913, — they date kenntnis der Manichaischen Au- 

the Chinese translation about 900 ditores, Berlin, 1911. There are 

A.D. and the MS of it within a further publications on the subject, 
century later; W. Radloflf, Chu- 


great kings and twelve evil natures ; thirteen great luminous 
forces and thirteen parts of the carnal body and thirteen 
vices, — elsewhere fourteen parts; fifteen enumerations of 
sins for which forgiveness is sought; fifty days in the year 
to be observed; and so on. 

A sect derived either from Gnosticism or from common The Man- 
sources seems still to exist in the case of the Mandaeans of ^^^"^• 
southern Babylonia.^ They believe that the earth and man 
were formed by a Demiurge, who corresponds to the lalda- 
baoth of the Ophites, and who was aided by the spirits of 
the seven planets. They divide the history of the world 
into seven ages and represent Jesus Christ as a false prophet 
and magician produced by the planet Mercury. The lower 
world consists of four vestibules and three hells proper and 
has seven iron and seven golden walls. A dying Mandaean 
is clothed in a holy dress of seven pieces. The spirits of 
the planets, however, are represented as evil beings, and the 
first two of three sets of progeny borne by the spirit of hell 
fire were the seven planets and the twelve signs of the zodiac. 
The influence of these two numbers, seven and twelve, may 
be further seen in the regulation that a candidate for the 
priesthood should be at least nineteen years old and have 
had twelve years of previous training, which we infer would 
normally begin when he reached his seventh year and not 
before. Other prominent numbers in Mandaean lore are 
five,^ perhaps indicative of the planets other than sun and 
moon, and three hundred and sixty, suggestive of the num- 
ber of degrees in the circle of the zodiac. Thus the main 
manifestations of the primal light are five, and the third 
generation produced by the spirit of hell fire was of like 
number. The number of aeons is often stated as three hun- 
dred and sixty, and the delivering deity or Messiah of the 

*The following details are from Anz (1897), pp. 70-8. Fur- 
drawn from the articles on the ther bibliography will be found in 
Mandaeans in EB, nth edition, by these references. 
K. Kessler and G. W. Thatcher, ' The number five also appears 
and in ERE by W. Brandt, author in the Pistis-Sophia and other 
of Manddische Religion, 1889, and Gnostic literature. 
Manddische Schriften, 1893, and 


Mandaeans is said to have sent forth that number of dis- 
ciples before his return to the realm of light. We hear of 
yet other numbers, such as 480,000 years for the duration 
of the world, 60,000, and 240, but these too are commen- 
surate, if not identical, with astrological periods such as 
those of conjunctions and the magnus annus. A peculiarity 
of Mandaean astronomy and astrology is that the other 
heavenly bodies are all believed to rotate about the polar 
star. Mandaeans always face it when praying; their sanc- 
tuaries are built so that persons entering face it; and even 
the dying man is placed so that his feet point and eyes gaze 
in its direction. Like the Gnostics, the Mandaeans invoke 
by many strange names their spirits and aeons who are 
divided into numerous orders. Their names for the planets 
seem to be of Babylonian origin. Passages from their sa- 
cred books are recited like incantations and are considered 
more effective in danger and distress than prayer in the 
ordinary sense of the word. Such recitations are also em- 
ployed to aid the souls of the dead to ascend through vari- 
ous stages or prisons to the world of light. Earthenware 
vessels have recently been brought to light with Mandaean 
inscriptions and incantations to avert evil.-^ 

^ H. Pognon, Une Incantation ddische Zaubertexte, in Ephemeris 

centre les genies malfaisants en f. semit. Epig., I (1902), 89-106. 

Manddite, 1893; Inscriptions man- J. A. Montgomery, Aramaic In- 

ddites des coupes dc Khonahir, cantation Texts from Nippur, 

1897-1899. M. Lidzbarski, Man- 1913. 



Magic in the Bible — Apocryphal Gospels of the Infancy — Question 
of their date — Their medieval influence — Resemblances to Apuleius and 
Apollonius in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy — Counteracting magic 
and demons — Other miracles and magic by the Christ child — Some- 
times with injurious results — Further marvels from the Pseudo- 
Matthew — Learning of the Christ child — Other charges of magic against 
Christ and the apostles — The Magi and the star — Allegorical zoology of 
Barnabas — Traces of Gnosticism in the apocryphal Acts — Legend of 
St. John — Legend of St. Sousnyos — Old Testament Apocrypha of the 
Christian era. 

It is hardly necessary to rehearse here in detail the nu- Magic in 
merous allusions to, prohibitions of, and descriptions of the ^ ' ^' 
practice of magic, witchcraft, and astrology, enchantments 
and exorcisms, divination and interpretation of dreams, 
which are to be found scattered through the pages of the 
Old and New Testaments. Such passages had a profound 
influence upon Christian thought on such themes in the early 
church and during the middle ages, and we shall have occa- 
sion to mention many, if not most, of such scriptural pas- 
sages, in connection with this later discussion of them by 
the church fathers and others. For instance, Pharaoh's ma- 
gicians and their contests with Moses and Aaron; Balaam 
and his imprecations and enchantments and prediction that 
a star would come out of Jacob and a scepter out of Israel; 
the witch of Endor or ventriloquist and her invocation of 
what seemed to be the ghost of Samuel ; the repeated use of 
the numbers seven and twelve, suggestive of the planets and 
signs of the zodiac, as in the twelve cakes of showbread 
and candlestick with seven branches; the dreams and inter- 
pretation of dreams of Joseph and Daniel, not to mention 



the former's silver divining cup ; ^ the wise men who saw 
Christ's star in the east; Christ's own allusion to the shak- 
ing of "the powers of the heavens" and the gathering of His 
elect from the four winds at His second coming ; the accusa- 
tion against Christ that He cast out demons by the aid of the 
prince of demons; the eclipse of the sun at the time of the 
crucifixion ; the adventures of the apostles with Simon Ma- 
gus, with Elymas the sorcerer, and with the damsel pos- 
sessed with a spirit of divination who brought her mastei 
much gain by soothsaying; the burning of their books of 
magic by the vagabond Jewish exorcists ; the prohibitions of 
heathen divination and witchcraft by the Mosaic law and 
by the prophets; the penalties prescribed for sorcerers in 
the Book of Revelation ; at the same time the legalized prac- 
tice of similar superstitions, such as the ordeal to test a 
wife's faithfulness by making her drink "the bitter water 
that causeth the curse," ^ the engraved gold plate upon the 
high priest's forehead,^ or the use of Paul's handkerchief 
and underwear to cure the sick and dispel demons ; the prom- 
ise to believers in the closing verses or appendix of The Gos- 
pel according to St. Mark that they shall cast out devils, 
speak with new tongues, handle serpents and drink poison 
without injury, and cure the sick by laying on of hands. 
The foregoing scarcely exhaust the obvious allusions or 
analogies to astrology and other magic arts in the Bible, to 
say nothing of less explicit passages ^ which were later taken 
to justify certain occult arts, as Exodus XIH, 9, to support 
chiromancy, and the Gospel of John XI, 9, to support the 
astrological doctrine of elections. Suffice it for the present 
to say that the prevailing atmosphere of the Bible is one of 

* Genesis XLIV, 5, and J. G. and also his other works ; for in- 
Frazer (1918), II, 426-34. stance, The Magic Art, 191 1, I, 

* In the apocryphal Protevan- 258, for the contest in magic rain- 
gelium of James, cap. 16, both making between Elijah and the 
Joseph and Mary undergo the priests of Baal in First Kings, 
test. Chapter XVIII, while I do not 

* Joachim consults the plate in understand why Joshua is not 
the Protevangelium, cap. 5. mentioned in connection with 

* See J. G. Frazer, Folk-Lore in "The magical control of the sun," 
the Old Testament, 1918, 3 vols., Ibid., I, 3ii-i9- 


prophecy, vision, and miracle, and that with these go, like 
the obverse face of a coin or medal, their inevitable accom- 
paniments of divination, demons, and magic. 

This is also the case in apocryphal literature of the Apoc- 
New Testament which is now so much less familiar and ac- gospels 

cessible especially to English readers,^ but which had wide ?f the 

. . . infancy, 

currency in the early Christian and medieval periods. We 

may begin with the apocryphal gospels and more particu- 
larly those dealing with the infancy and childhood of Christ. 
Of these two are believed to date from the second century, 
namely, the Gospel of James or "Gospel of the Infancy" 
{Protoevangeliiim lacohi) - and the Gospel of St. Thomas, 
which is mentioned by Hippolytus. However, he cites a 
sentence which is not in the present text — of which the 
manuscripts are scanty and for the most part of late date ^ — 
and the gospel as we have it is not Gnostic, as he says it is, 
so that our version has probably been altered by some 
Catholic.^ Later in date is the Latin gospel of the Pseudo- 
Matthew — perhaps of the fourth or fifth century — and the 
Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, which is believed to be a 
translation from a lost Syriac original. We are the worst 
off of all for manuscripts of its text and apparently there 
is no Latin manuscript of it now extant, although a Latin 

* However, the Apocrypha of Tischendorf is Thilo, Codex apoc- 

the New Testament may be read ryphus Novi Testamenti, Leipzig, 

in English translation by Alex- 1832; Fabricius, etc. 

ander Walker in The Ante-Nicene 'It is ascribed to the second 

Fathers (American edition), VIII, century both by Tischendorf 

357-598, and in that by Hone in and The Catholic Encyclopedia 

1820, which has since been re- ("Apocrypha," 607). There are 

printed without change. It in- plenty of fairly early Greek MSS 

eludes only a part of the apoc- for it. 

rypha now known and presents ^ The Greek MSS are of the 

these in a blind fashion without 15th and i6th centuries ; Tischen- 

explanation. It differs from Tisch- dorf examined only partially a 

endorf's text of the apocryphal Latin palimpsest of it which is 

gospels (Evangelia Apocrypha, ed. probably of the fifth century. 

Tischendorf, Lipsiae, 1876) both ' So argues The Catholic Ency- 

in the titles of the gospels, the clopedia, 608; Tischendorf seems 

distribution of the texts under the inclined to date the Gospel of 

respective titles, and the division Thomas a little later than that of 

into chapters. I have, however, James, and to hold that we pos- 

sometimes used Hone's wording sess only a fragment of it. 
in making quotations. Older than 


text has reached us through the printed editions. Tischen- 
dorf was, however, "unwilHng to omit in this new collec- 
tion of the apocryphal gospels that ancient and memorable 
monument of the superstition of oriental Christians," and 
for the same reason we shall survey its medley of miracle 
and magic in the present chapter. Speaking of the flight 
into Egypt this gospel says, "And the Lord Jesus performed 
a great many miracles in Egypt which are not found recorded 
either in the Gospel of the Infancy or in the Perfect Gos- 
pel." ^ Tischendorf noted the close resemblance of its first 
nine chapters to the Gospel of James and of chapters 36-55 
to the Gospel of Thomas, while the intervening chapters 
"contain especially fables of the sort you may fittingly call 
oriental, filled with allusions to Satan and demons and 
sorceries and magic arts." ^ We find, however, the same sort 
of fables in the other three apocryphal gospels; there are 
simply more of them in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy. 
It appears to be a compilation and may embody other earlier 
sources no longer extant as well as passages from the pseudo- 
James and pseudo-Thomas. 
Question There is a tendency on the part of orthodox Christian 

date. scholars to defer the writing of apocryphal works to as late 

a date as possible, and they seem to have a notion that they 
can save the credibility or purity of the miracles of the 
New Testament ^ by representing such miracles as those 
recorded of the infancy of Christ as the inventions of a later 
age. And it is probably true that all these marvels were 
not the invention of a single century but of a succession of 

* Evang. Inf. Arab., cap. 25, were ready enough both to repeat 

"fecitque dominus lesus plurima and to invent similar tales, 
in Egypto miracula quae neque in ^ It may be noted, however, that 

evangelic infantiae neque in evan- the chief miracles of the Gospels 

gelio perfecto scripta reperiuntur.'' were attacked as "absurd or un- 

' Tischendorf (1876), p. xlviii. worthy of the performer" nearly 

As I have already intimated on two centuries ago by Thomas 

other occasions, it seems to me no Woolston in his Discourses on the 

explanation to call such stories Miracles of our Saviour, 1727- 

"oriental." Christianity was an 1730. The words in quotation 

oriental religion to begin with. marks are from J. B. Bury's His- 

Moreover, as our whole investiga- tory of Freedom of Thought, 1913, 

tion goes to show, both classical p, 142. 
antiquity and the medieval west 


centuries. On the other hand, I know of no reason for 
thinking Christians of the first century any less credulous 
than Christians of the fifth century ; it was not until the lat- 
ter century that Pope Gelasius' condemnation of apocryphal 
books was drawn up, but apocryphal books had long been 
in existence before that time; nor for thinking the Chris- 
tians of the thirteenth century any more credulous than those 
of the other two centuries. It is only in our own age that 
Christians have become really critical of such matters. 
Moreover, these unacceptable miracles, whenever they were 
invented, were presumably invented by and accepted by 
Christians, who must bear the discredit for them. What- 
ever the century was, the same men believed in them who 
believed in the miracles recorded in the New Testament. 
If the plant has flowered into such rank superstition, can the 
original seed escape responsibility? The Arabic Gospel of 
the Infancy is no doubt an extreme instance of Christian 
credence in magic, but it is an instance that cannot be over- 
looked, whatever its date, place, or language. 

These apocryphal gospels of the Infancy, which are in Their 
part extant only in Latin, continued to be influential in the j^^fluence. 
medieval period. At the beginning of it we find included in 
Pope Gelasius' list of apocryphal works, published at a 
synod at Rome in 494,^ besides apocryphal gospels of Mat- 
thew and of Thomas — which last we are told, "the Mani- 
cheans use" — a Liber de infantia Salvatoris and a Liber 
de nativitate Salvatoris et de Maria et obstetrice. There 
are numerous manuscripts of such gospels in the later me- 
dieval centuries but it would not be safe to attempt to iden- 
tify or classify them without examining each in detail. As 
Tischendorf said, the Latins do not seem to have long re- 
mained content with mere translations of the Greek pseudo- 
gospel of James but combined the stories told there with 
others from the Pseudo-Thomas or other sources into new 

*Migne, PL, 59, i62tf. The list con (IV, 15), and in _ the thir- 

was reproduced with slight varia- teenth century by Vincent of 

tions by Hugh of St. Victor in the Beauvais in the Speculum Natu- 

twelfth century in his Didascali- rale (I, 14). 



blances to 
and Apol- 
lonius in 
the Arabic 
of the 

apocryphal treatises. Thus the extant Latin apocrypha in 
no case reproduce the Gospel of James accurately but rather 
are imitated after it, and include some of it, omit some of 
it, embellish some of its tales, and add to it.^ Male states 
in his work on religious art in France in the thirteenth cen- 
tury that The Gospel of the Pseudo-Matthew and The Gos- 
pel of Nicodemus or Acts of Pilate were the two apocryphal 
gospels especially used in the twelfth and thirteenth cen- 

That the fables of the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy 
were at least not fresh from the orient is indicated by the 
way in which some of the incidents in the stories of Apuleius 
and Apollonius of Tyana are closely paralleled,^ In the par- 
lor of a well furnished house where lived two sisters with 
their widowed mother stood a mule caparisoned in silk 
and with an ebony collar about his neck, "whom they kissed 
and were feeding." * He was their brother, transformed 
into a mule by the sorcery of a jealous woman one night 
a little before daybreak, although all the doors of the house 
were locked at the time. "And we," they tell a girl who had 
been instantly cured of leprosy by use of perfumed water 
in which the Christ child had been washed and who had then 
become the maid-servant of the virgin Mary,^ "have applied 
to all the wise men, magicians, and diviners in the world, 
but they have been of no service to us." ^ The girl recom- 
mends them to consult Mary, who restores their brother 
to human form by placing the Christ child upon his back. 
This romantic episode is then brought to a fitting conclusion 
by the marriage of the brother to the girl who had assisted 
in his restoration to his right body. As the demon, who 
^Tischendorf (1876), pp. xxiii- craft and magic." The resem- 


*Male (1913), pp. 207-8. 

' Since writing this, I find that 
Male has been impressed by the 
same resemblance. He writes 
(1913)7 P- 207, "Some chapters in 
the apocryphal gospels are like 
the Life of Apollomus of Tyana 
or even like The Golden Ass, per- 
meated with the belief in witch- 

blance to Apuleius is also noted in 
AN, VIII, 353. 

* Tischendorf , Evang. Infantiae 
Arabicum, caps. 20-21. 

"Ibid., cap. 17. 

* Ibid., cap. 20, "nullum in mun- 
do doctum aut magum aut incan- 
tatorem omisimus quin ilium 
accerseremus ; sed nihil nobis 


in the form of an artful beggar was causing the plague 
at Ephesus and whom Apollonius had stoned to death, 
turned at the last moment into a mad dog, so Satan, when 
forced by the presence of the Christ child to leave the boy 
Judas, ran away like a mad dog.^ The reviving of a corpse 
by an Egyptian prophet in the Metamorphoses in order that 
the dead man may tell who murdered him is paralleled in 
both the Arabic Infancy and the gospels of Thomas and the 
Pseudo-Matthew by the conduct of Jesus when accused of 
throwing another boy down from a house-top. The text 
reads : "Then the Lord Jesus going down stood over the 
dead boy and said with a loud voice, 'Zeno, Zeno, who threw 
you down from the house-top?' Then the dead boy an- 
swered, 'Lord, thou didst not throw me down, but so-and- 
so did." 2 

Many were the occasions upon which the Christ child or Counter- 
his mother counteracted the operations of magic or relieved ^aRicand 
persons who were possessed by demons. Kissing him cured demons. 
a bride whom sorcerers had made dumb at her wedding,^ 
and a bridegroom who was kept by sorcery from enjoying 
his wife was cured of his impotence by the mere presence 
of the holy family who lodged in his house for the night.* 
Mary's pitying glance was sufficient to expel Satan from a 
woman possessed by demons.^ Another upright woman 
who was often vexed by Satan in the form of a serpent 
when she went to bathe in the river,® which reminds one 
somewhat of Olympias and Nectanebus,"^ was permanently 
cured by kissing the Christ child. And a girl, whose blood 
Satan used to suck, miraculously discomfited him when he 

^Evang. Inf. Arab., cap. 35, side, on which Judas struck him, 

"Extemplo exivit ex puero illo the Jews pierced with a lance." 

satanas fugiens cani rabido simi- ^ Ibid., cap. 44; Evang. Thomae 

lis." The apocryphal gospel adds, Lat., cap. 7 ; Ps. Matth., cap. 32. 

"This same boy who struck Jesus," 'Evang. Inf. Arab., cap. 15. 

i..e., while he was still possessed ^ Ibid., cap. 19, "qui veneficio 

by the demon, "and out of whom tactus uxore f rui non poterat." 

Satan went in the form of a dog, ^ Ibid., cap. 14. 

was Judas Iscariot, who betrayed "Ibid., cap. 16. 

Him to the Jews. And that same ^ See below, chapter 24. 



and magic 
by the 

appeared in the shape of a huge dragon by putting upon her 
head and about her eyes a swaddHng cloth of Jesus which 
Mary had given to her. Fire then went forth and was scat- 
tered upon the dragon's head and eyes, as from the Winking 
eyes of the artful beggar who caused the plague in the Life 
of Apollonins of Tyana, and he fled in a panic.^ A priest's 
three-year-old son who was possessed by a great multitude 
of devils, who uttered many strange things, and who threw 
stones at everybody, was likewise cured by placing on his 
head one of Christ's swaddling clothes which Mary had 
hung out to dry. In this case the devils made their escape 
through his mouth "in the shape of crows and serpents." ^ 
Such marvels may offend modern taste but have their prob- 
able prototype in the miracles wrought by use of Paul's 
handkerchief and underwear in the New Testament and il- 
lustrate, like the placing of spittle on the eyes of the blind 
man, the great healing virtue then ascribed to the perspira- 
tion and other secretions and excretions of the human body. 
Sick children as well as lepers were cured by the water 
in which Jesus had bathed or by wearing coats made of 
his swaddling clothes,^ while the child Bartholomew was 
snatched from the very jaws of death by the mere smell of 
the Christ child's garments the moment he was placed on 
Jesus' bed.* On the road to Egypt is a balsam which was 
produced "from the sweat which ran down there from the 
Lord Jesus." ^ The Christ child cured snake-bite, in the case 
of his brother James by blowing on it, in the case of his play- 
fellow, Simon the Canaanite, by forcing the serpent who 
had stung him to come out of its hole and suck all the poison 
from the wound, after which he cursed the snake "so that 
it immediately burst asunder and died," ® When the boy 
Jesus took all the cloths waiting to be dyed with different 
colors in a dyer's shop and threw them into the furnace, the 
dyer began to scold him for this mischief, but the cloths all 

^ Evang. Inf. Arab., caps. 33-34. ^ Ibid., cap. 24. 

^ Ibid., caps. lo-ii. ''Ibid., caps. 42-43; Ps. Matth., 

'Ibid., caps. 27-32. 41; Evang. Thorn. Lat., 14. Colli" 

* Ibid., cap. 30. pare pp. 279-80 above. 


came out of the desired colors.^ Jesus also miraculously 
remedied the defective carpentry of Joseph, who had v^orked 
for tv^o years on a throne for the king of Jerusalem and 
made it too short. Jesus and Joseph took hold of the oppo- 
site sides and pulled the throne out to the required dimen- 

The usual result of the Christ child's miracles was that Sometimes 
all the bystanders united in praising God. But when his lit- -^j^urious 
tie playmates went home and told their parents how he had results. 
made his clay animals walk and his clay birds fly, eat, and 
drink, their elders said, "Take heed, children, for the future 
of his company, for he is a sorcerer; shun and avoid him, 
and from henceforth never play with him," ^ Indeed, if 
the theory of the fathers is correct that the surest hall-mark 
by which divine miracles may be distinguished from feats of 
magic is that the former are never wrought for any evil 
end while the latter are, it must be admitted that his con- 
temporaries were sometimes justified in suspecting the 
Christ child of resort to magic. After his playmates had 
been thus forbidden to associate with Jesus, they hid from 
him in a furnace, and some women at a house near by told 
him that there were not boys but kids in the furnace. Jesus 
then actually transformed them into kids who came skipping 
forth at his command.^ It is true that he soon changed them 
back into human form, and that the women worshiped Christ 
and asserted their conviction that he was "come to save and 
not to destroy." But on several subsequent occasions Jesus 
is represented in the apocryphal gospels of the infancy as 
causing the death of his playmates. When another boy 
broke a little fish-pool which Jesus had constructed on the 
Sabbath day, he said to him, "In like manner as this water 
has vanished, so shall thy life vanish," and the boy pres- 

^ Evang. Inf. Arab., cap. 37. Ad-Damiri, translated by A. S. G. 

"Ibid., 38-39; Ps. Matth., 37; Jayakar, 1906, I, 703, for a Moslem 

Evang. Thorn. Lot., 11. tale of Jews who called Jesus "the 

* Evang. Inf. Arab., cap. 36; Ps. enchanter the son of the en- 
Matth., 27; Evang. Thorn. Lat., 4. chantress," and were transformed 

* Evang. Inf. Arab., cap. 40. See into pigs. 



from the 

of the 

ently died.^ When a third boy ran into Jesus and knocked 
him down, he said, "As thou hast thrown me down, so shalt 
thou fall, nor ever rise;" and that instant the boy fell down 
and died.^ When Jesus' teacher started to whip him, his 
hand withered and he died. After which we are not sur- 
prised to hear Joseph say to Mary, "Henceforth we will 
not allow him to go out of the house; for everyone who dis- 
pleases him is killed." ^ 

As has been indicated in the foot-notes many of the 
foregoing marvels are recounted in the Pseudo-Matthew and 
Latin Gospel of Thomas as well as in the Arabic Gospel of 
the Infancy. The Pseudo-Matthew also tells how lions 
adored the Christ child and were bade by him to go in peace.* 
And how he "took a dead child by the ear and suspended 
him from the earth in the sight of all. And they saw Jesus 
speaking with him like a father with his son. And his spirit 
returned unto him and he lived again. And all marveled 
thereat." ^ When a rich man named Joseph died and was 
lamented, Jesus asked his father Joseph why he did not help 
his dead namesake. When Joseph asked what there was 
that he could do, Jesus replied, "Take the handkerchief which 
is on your head and go and put it over the face of the corpse 
and say to him, 'May Christ save you.' " Joseph followed 
these instructions except that he said, "Salvet te lesus," in- 
stead of "Salvet te Christiis," which was possibly the reason 
why the dead man upon reviving asked, "Who is Jesus ?" ® 

While no very elaborate paraphernalia or ceremonial 
were involved in the miracles ascribed to the Christ child 
in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, it is perhaps worth 
noting that he was already possessed of all learning and non- 
plussed his masters, when they tried to teach him the alpha- 

^Evang. Inf. Arab., 46; Evang. 
Thorn. Lat., 4; Ps. Matth., 26, 
where Mary afterwards induces 
Jesus to restore him to life, and 28. 

'Evang. Inf. Arab., cap. 47; 
Evang. fhom. Lat., 5 ; Ps. Matth., 

'Evang. Inf. Arab., cap. 


Evang. Thorn. Lat., 12; 


Matth., 38. 

*Ps. Matth., caps. 35-36. 

^ Ibid., cap. 29. 

* Ibid., cap. 40. 


bet, by asking the most abstruse questions. And when he 
appeared before the doctors in the temple, he expounded to 
them not only the books of the law,^ but natural philosophy, 
astronomy, physics and metaphysics, physiology, anatomy, 
and psychology. He is represented as telling them "the 
number of the spheres and heavenly bodies, as also their 
triangular, square, and sextile aspect ; their progressive and 
retrograde motion; their twenty- fourths and sixtieths of 
twenty-fourths" (perhaps corresponding to our hours and 
minutes!) *'and other things which the reason of man had 
never discovered." Furthermore, "the powers also of the 
body, its humors and their effects; also the number of its 
members, and bones, veins, arteries, and nerves; the several 
constitutions of the body, hot and dry, cold and moist, and 
the tendencies of them; how the soul operates upon the 
body; what its various sensations and faculties are; the 
faculty of speaking, anger, desire ; and lastly, the manner of 
the body's composition and dissolution, and other things 
which the understanding of no creature had ever reached." ^ 
It may be added that in the apocryphal epistles supposed to 
have been interchanged between Christ and Abgarus, king 
of Edessa, that monarch writes to Christ, "I have been in- 
formed about you and your cures, which are performed 
without the use of herbs and medicines." ^ 

Jesus is again accused of magic in The Gospel of Nico- Other 
demus or Acts of Pontius Pilate, where the Jews tell Pilate of magic 
that he is a conjurer. After Pilate has been warned by his of^J^f 
wife, the Jews repeat, "Did we not say unto thee. He is a and the 
magician? Behold, he hath caused thy wife to dream." * 
In the Acts of Paul and Thecla, to which Tertullian refers 
and which are now seen to be an excerpt from the apocry- 

^ Later the same gospel (cap. Syriac in the pubHc records of 

54) rather inconsistently repre- Edessa. Hone says that it used 

sents Jesus as engaged in the to be a common practice among 

study of law until his thirtieth English people to have the epistle 

year. ascribed to Christ framed and 

' Evang. Inf. Arab., caps. 51-52. place a picture of the Saviour be- 

' Eusebius states that he dis- fore it. 
covered these letters written in * Gospel of Nicodcmiis, I, 1-2. 




The Magi 
and the 

zoologj' of 

phal Acts of Paul, discovered in 1899 in a Coptic papyrus/ 
the mob similarly cries out against Paul, "He is a magi- 
cian; away with him." In the Acts of Peter and Andrew ^ 
they are both accused of being sorcerers by Onesiphorus, 
who also, however, denies that Peter can make a camel go 
through the eye of a needle. Nor is he satisfied when the 
feat is successfully performed with a needle and camel of 
Peter's selection, but insists upon its being repeated with an 
animal and instrument of his own selection. Onesiphorus 
also has "a polluted woman" ride upon his camel's back, 
apparently with the idea that this will break the magic spell. 
But Peter sends the camel through the eye of the needle, 
"which opened up like a gate," as successfully as before, 
and also back again through it once more from the opposite 

Some details are added by the apocrypha to the account 
of the star at Christ's birth. The Arabic Gospel states that 
Zoroaster (Zeraduscht) had predicted the coming of the 
Magi, that Mary gave the Magi one of Christ's swaddling 
clothes, that they were guided on their homeward journey 
by an angel in the form of the star which had led them to 
Bethlehem, and that after their return they found that the 
swaddling cloth would not burn in fire.^ The Epistle of 
Ignatius to the EpJiesians states that this star shone with a 
brightness far exceeding all others, filling men with fear, 
and that with its coming the power of magic was destroyed 
and the new kingdom of God ushered in."* 

In the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas occurs some of 
that allegorical zoology which we are apt to associate es- 
pecially with the Physiologus. In its ninth chapter the hy- 
ena and weasel are adduced as examples of its contention 
that the Mosaic distinction between clean and unclean ani- 
mals has a spiritual meaning. Thus the command not to 
eat the hyena means not to be an adulterer or corrupter of 

*CE, Apocrypha, p. 611. 

' Greek text in Tischendorf, 
Apocalypses Apocryph., pp. 161-7; 
English translation, The Ante- 

Nicene Fathers, VIII, 526-7. 
' Evang. Inf. Arab., 7-8. 
* Cap. 19 (AN, I, 57). 


others, for the hyena changes its sex annually. The weasel 
which conceives with its mouth signifies persons with un- 
clean mouths. In the Acts of Barnabas he cures the sick 
of Cyprus by laying a copy of the Gospel of Matthew upon 
their bodies.^ 

If we turn again to the various apocryphal Acts, where Traces of 
we have already noted charges of magic made against the j^ ^he 
apostles, we may find traces of gnosticism which have al- apocryphal 
ready been noted by Anz.^ In the Acts of Thomas the Holy 
Ghost is called the pitying mother of seven houses whose 
rest is the eighth house of heaven. In the Acts of Philip 
that apostle prays, "Come now, Jesus, and give me the eter- 
nal crown of victory over every hostile power . . . Lord 
Jesus Christ . . . lead me on . . . until I overcome all 
the cosmic powers and the evil dragon who opposes us. Now 
therefore Lord Jesus Christ make me to come to Thee in 
the air." The Acts of John, too, speak of overcoming fire 
and darkness and angels and demons and archons and 
powers of darkness who separate man from God. 

We deal in another chapter with the struggle of the Legend 
apostles with Simon Magus as recounted in the apocryphal ° •'° "* 
Acts of Peter and Paul, and with similar legends of the con- 
tests of other apostles with magicians. Here, however, we 
may mention some of the marvels in the apocryphal legend 
of St. John, supposed to have been written by his disciple 
Procharus and "which deluded the Greek Church by its air 
of sincerity and its extreme precision of detail," ^ although 
it does not seem to have reached the west until the sixteenth 
century. John is represented as drinking without injury a 
poison which had killed two criminals, and as reviving two 
corpses without going near them by directing an incredulous 
pagan to lay his cloak over them. A Stoic philosopher had 

^ Ante-Nicene Fathers, VIII, 'Male (1913), 299. For the 

494. text of this apocryphal work see 

' W. Anz, Zur Frage nach Migne, Dictionnaire des Apocry- 

deni Ursprung des Gnostisisnus phcs, II, 759, et seq.. or more 

(1897), pp. 36-41. Lipsius ct recently, Bonnet, Acta aposto- 

Bonnet, Acta apostolorum apoc- lorum apocrypha, 1898, II, 151- 

rypha, 1891-. 216. 



of St. 

persuaded some young men to embrace the life of poverty 
by converting their property into gems and then pounding 
the gems to pieces. John made the criticism that this wealth 
might have better been distributed among the poor, and 
when challenged to do so by the Stoic, prayed to God and 
had the gems made whole again. Later when the young men 
longed for their departed wealth, he turned the pebbles on 
the seashore into gold and precious stones, a miracle which 
is said to have persuaded the medieval alchemists that he 
possessed the secret of the philosopher's stone. ^ At any 
rate Adam of St. Victor in the twelfth century wrote the 
following lines concerning St. John in a chant to be used 
in the church service : 

Cum gemmarum partes fractas 

Solidasset, has distractas 
Tribuit pauperibus; 

Inexhaustum fert thesaurum 

Qui de virgis fecit aurum, 
Gemmas de lapidibus.^ 

The brief legend of St. Sousnyos, which Basset has 
included in his edition of Ethiopian Apocrypha,^ is all 
magic, beginning with an incantation or magic prayer 
against disease and demons. There is also a Slavonic ver- 
sion. This Sousnyos is presumably the same as the Sisin- 
nios who is said by the author of the apocryphal Acts of 
Archelans,'^ forged about 330-340 A. D., to have abandoned 
Mani, embraced Christianity, and revealed to Archelaus 
secret teachings which enabled him to triumph over his ad- 

^Male (1913), 300. But one 
would think that they must needs 
be Byzantine alchemists, if the 
legend did not reach the west until 
the sixteenth century. 

'HL, XV, 42. 
When the gems, all smashed to 

He had mended, then their prices 

To the poor he handed ; 
Quite exhaustless was his treasure 
Who from sticks made gold at 


Gems from stones commanded. 

' Rene Basset, Les apocryphes 
£thiopiens, Paris, 1893- 1894, vol. 

*See Migne, PG, X (1857), for 
the old Latin version; the Greek 
text is extant only in fragments ; 
the tradition, going back to 
Jerome, that there was a Syriac 
original is unfounded ; the work is 
first cited by Cyril. 


While on the subject, mention may be made of two Old Testa- 
works which properly belong to the apocrypha of the Old ap^ocrypha 
Testament, but which first appear during the Christian era of the 
and so fall within our period. The Ascension of Isaiah,^ of era. 
which the old Latin version was printed at Venice in 1 522, 
and which dates back to the second century, is something 
like the Book of Enoch, describing Isaiah's ascent through 
the seven heavens and vision of the mission of Christ. In 
the Book of Bctruch, of which the original version was writ- 
ten in Greek by a Christian of the third or fourth century,^ 
the most interesting episode is the magic sleep into which, 
like Rip Van Winkle, Abimelech falls during the destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. In the legend of Jere- 
miah the prophet's soul is absent from his body on one oc- 
casion for three days, while on another occasion he dresses 
up a stone to impersonate himself before the populace who 
are trying to stone him to death, in order that he may gain 
time to make certain revelations to Abimelech and Baruch. 
When he has had his say, the stone asks the people why they 
persist in stoning it instead of Jeremiah, against whom they 
then turn their missiles.^ 

Such is no exhaustive listing but rather a few examples 
of the encouragement given to belief in magic by the Chris- 
tian Apocrypha. 

* The Ethiopic version, made and Box, Translations of Early 

from the Greek between the fifth Documents, Series I, vol. 7. 

and seventh centuries, is translated ' The fragments of the Book of 

by Basset (1894), vol. iii ; and Baruch by Justin, preserved in 

was printed before him by Dill- the Philosophumena of Hippoly- 

mann, Asccnsio Isaiae aethiopice tus, are from an entirely different 

et latine, Leipzig, 1877, and by Gnostic work. 

Laurence, Ascensio Isaiae vatis, * R. Basset, Les apocryphes 

opusculum pseudepigraphus, Ox- ^thiopiens, Paris, 1893- 1894, vol, 

ford, 1819. See also R. H. i, Le Lizve de Baruch et la 

Charles, Ascension of Isaiah, legende de Jeremie. 
1900; reprinted 1917 in Oesterley 



The Pseudo-Clementines — Was Rufinus the sole medieval version? 
• — Previous Greek versions — Date of the original version — Internal evi- 
dence — Resemblances to Apuleius and Philostratus — Science and re- 
ligion — Interest in natural science — God and nature — Sin and nature — 
Attitude to astrology — Arguments against genethlialogy — The virtuous 
Seres — Theory of demons — Origin of magic — Frequent accusations of 
magic — Marvels of magic — How distinguish miracle from magic? — 
Deceit in magic — Murder of a boy — Magic is evil — Magic is an art — 
Other accounts of Simon Magus : Justin Martyr to Hippolytus — Peter's 
account in the Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum — Arnobius, 
Cyril, and Philastrius — Apocryphal Acts of Peter and Paul — An ac- 
count ascribed to Marcellus — Hegesippus — A sermon on Simon's fall — 
Simon Magus in medieval art. 

"The Truth herself shall receive thee a wanderer and a 
stranger, and enroll thee a citizen of her own city." 

— Recognitions I, 13. 

The The starting-point and chief source for this chapter will 

Ckmen^ be the writings known as the Pseudo-Clementines and more 
tines. particularly the Latin version commonly called The Recog- 

nitions. We shall then note other accounts of its villain- 
hero, Simon Magus, in patristic literature.^ The Pseudo- 

*Text of The Recognitions \n 
Migne, PG, I ; of The Homilies in 
PG, II, or P. de Lagarde, Clem- 
entina, 1865. E. C. Richardson 
had an edition of The Recog- 
nitions in preparation in 1893, 
when a list of some seventy MSS 
communicated by him was pub- 
lished in A. Harnack's Gesch. d. 
altchr. Lit., I, 229-30, but it has 
not yet appeared. In quoting The 
Recognitions I often avail myself 
of the language of the English 
translation in the Ante-Nicene 

Since A. Hilgenf eld. Die klement. 
Rekogn. u. Homilien, 1848, the 
Pseudo-Clementines have pro- 
vided a much frequented field of 
research and controversy, of 
which the articles in CE, EB, and 
Realencyklop'ddie (1913), XXIII, 
312-6, provide fairly recent sum- 
maries from varying ecclesiastical 
standpoints. For bibliography see 
pp. 4-5 in the recent monograph 
of W. Heintze, Der Klemensro- 
m,a'n mid seine griechischen Quel- 
len, 1914, in TU, XL, 2. In the 
same series, TU, XXV, 4, H 



Clementines, as the name implies, are works or different 
versions of one work ascribed to Clement of Rome, who is 
represented as writing to James, the brother of the Lord, 
an account of events and discussions in which he and the 
apostle Peter had participated not long after the crucifixion. 
This Pseudo-Clementine literature has a double character, 
combining romantic narrative concerning Peter, Simon 
Magus, and the family of Clement with long, argumentative, 
didactic, and doctrinal discussions and dialogues in which 
the same persons participate but Peter takes the leading and 
most authoritative part. Not only the authorship, origin, 
and date, but even the title or titles and the make-up and 
arrangement of the various versions and their original are 
doubtful or disputed matters. The versions now extant 
and published seem by no means to have been the only ones, 
but we will describe them first. In Greek we have the ver- 
sion known as The Homilies in twenty books, in which the 
didactic element preponderates. It is extant in only two 
manuscripts of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries at Paris 
and Rome,^ but is also preserved in part in epitomes. Dif- 
ferent from it is the Latin version in which the narrative 
element plays a greater part. 

This Latin version, now usually referred to as The Rec- Was 
ognitions, because the main point in its plot is the successive the sole 

bringing together again of, and recognition of one another medieval 
° ° version ? 

by, the members of a family long separated, is the trans- 
lation made by Rufinus, who is last heard from in 410. It 
is usually divided into ten books. Numerous manuscripts 
of this version attest its popularity and influence in the mid- 
dle ages, when we early find Isidore of Seville quoting 

Waitz, Die Pseudo-Klementinen, origine Pseudo-Clementinorum, 

1904- Diss, inaug., Warsaw, 1866; G. R. 

Concerning Simon Magus may S. Mead (Fellow of the Theo- 

be mentioned: H. Schlurick, De sophical Society), Simon Magus, 

Simonis Magi fatis Romanis; A. 1892; H. Waitz, Simon Magus in 

Hilgenfeld, Der Magier Simon, in d. altchr. Lit., in Zeitschr. f. d. 

Zeitschr. f. wiss. Thcol., XII neutest. IViss., V (1904), 121-43. 
(1869), 353 ff-; G. Frommberger, ' BN, Greek, 930; Ottobon, 443. 

De Sitnone Mago, Pars I, De 


Clement several times as an authority on natural science.^ 
Arevalus, however, thought that Isidore used some other 
version of the Pseudo-Clementines than that of Rufinus,^ and 
in the medieval period another title was common, namely, 
The Itinerary of Clement, or The Itinerary of Peter.^ 
WiUiam of Auvergne, for instance, in the first half of the 
thirteenth century cites the Itinerarium dementis or "Book 
of the disputations of Peter against Simon Magus." * This 
Itinerary of Clement also heads the list of works condemned 
as apocryphal by Pope Gelasius at a synod at Rome in 494,^ 
a list reproduced by Vincent of Beauvais in his Speculum 
naturale in the thirteenth century ^ and in the previous cen- 
tury rather more accurately by Hugh of St. Victor in 
his Didascalicon.'^ In all three cases the full title is given 
in practically the same words, "The Itinerary by the name 
of the Apostle Peter which is called Saint Clement's, an 
apocryphal work in eight books." ® Here we encounter a 
difficulty, since as we have said The Recognitions are in 
ten books. We find, however, that in another passage ^ Vin- 
cent correctly cites the ninth book of The Recognitions as 
Clement's ninth book, and that the number of books into 
which The Recognitions is divided varies in the manu- 
scripts, and that they, too, more often call it The Itinerary of 
Clement or even apply other designations. Rabanus Maurus 
in the ninth century quotes an utterance of the apostle 
Peter from The History of Saint Clement, but the passage 
is found in The Recognitions.^^ Vincent of Beauvais also 

* Isidore, De natura rerum, * Vincent of Beauvais, 5'/'ecM^Mfw 

caps, xxxi, xxxvi, xxxix-xli (PL, naturale, 1485, I, 14. 

83, 1003-12). ■'PL, 176, 787-8, Erudit. Didasc, 

'PL, 83, 1003, note, "Sunt haec IV, 15. 

lib. VIII Recognitionum sed ap- * "Itinerarium nomine Petri 

paret Isidoruni alia interpretatione apostoli quod appellatur sancti 

usum ac dubitare posse an ea quae Clementis libri octo apocryphum 

circumfertur Rufini sit." (or, apocryphi)." 

'See CU, Trinity 1041, 14th ^Speculum naturale, XXXII, 

century, fols. 7-105, "Inc. pro- 129, concerning the morality of 

logus in librum quern moderni the Seres, 

itinerarium beati Petri vocant." " Compare Recognitions, I, 27 

*Valois (1880), p. 204. (PG, I, 122) with Rabanus, Com- 

'PL, 59, 162, "Notitia librorum ment. in Genesim, I, 2 (PL, 107, 

apocryphorum qui non recipiun- 450). 



quotes "the blessed apostle Peter in a certain letter attached 
to The Itinerary of Clernent." No letter by Peter is pre- 
faced to the printed text of The Recognitions, nor does Ru- 
finus mention such a letter, although he does speak in his 
preface of a letter by Clement which he has already trans- 
lated elsewhere. Prefixed to the printed Homilies, how- 
ever, and in the manuscripts found also with The Recog- 
nitions, are letters of Peter and Clement respectively to 
James. But the passage quoted by Vincent does not occur 
in either, but comes from the tenth book of The Recogni- 
tions} It would seem, therefore, despite variations in the 
number of books and in the arrangement of material, that 
the Latin version by Rufinus was the only one current in the 
middle ages, but we cannot be sure of this until all the ex- 
tant manuscripts have been more carefully examined.^ 

The version by Rufinus differed from previous ones not Previous 
only in being in Latin but also in various omissions which yerTions. 
he admits he made and perhaps other changes to suit it to 
his Latin audience. That there was already more than one 
version in Greek he shows in his preface by describing an- 
other text than that upon which his translation or adaptation 
was based. Neither of these two Greek texts appears to 
have been the same as the present Homilies.^ Yet The 
Homilies were apparently in existence at that time, since 
a Syriac manuscript of 411 A. D. contains four books of 
The Homilies and three of The Recognitions,'^ thus in itself 

* Speculum naturale, I, 7. Peter 
is represented as saying, "When 
anyone has derived from divine 
Scripture a sound and firm rule of 
truth, it will not be absurd if to 
the assertion of true dogma he 
joins something from the educa- 
tion and liberal studies which he 
may have pursued from boyhood. 
Yet so that in all points he teaches 
what is true and shuns what is 
false and pretense." This corre- 
sponds to the close of the 42nd 
chapter of the tenth book of The 

' Since writing this I learn that 
Professor E. C. Richardson has 

examined most of the known MSS 
of The Recognitions and has 
found them all to be the version 
by Rufinus, except for a few addi- 
tional chapters which someone has 
added in the French group of 
MSS, — chapters which Rufinus 
seems to have omitted because they 
were difficult to translate. 

^ Heintze (1914), 23, however, 
argues that the conclusion of The 
Recognitions is dependent upon 
The Homilies. 

* Professor E. C. Richardson, 
after kindly reading this chapter 
in manuscript, writes me (Sept. 5, 
1921) that he doubts if this Syriac 


furnishing an illustration of the ease with which new ver- 
sions might be compounded from old. Both The Homilies 
and The Recognitions as they have reached us would seem 
to be confusions and perversions of this sort, as their inci- 
dents are obviously not arranged in correct order. For in- 
stance, when the story of The Recognitions begins Christ 
is still alive and reports of His miracles are reaching Rome ; 
the same year Barnabas pays a visit to Rome and Clement 
almost immediately follows him back to Syria, making the 
passage from Rome to Caesarea in fifteen days;^ but on 
his arrival there he meets Peter who tells him that "a week 
of years" have elapsed since the crucifixion and of other in- 
tervening events involving a considerable lapse of time. Or 
again, in the third book of The Recognitions Simon is said 
to have sunk his magical paraphernalia in the sea and gone 
to Rome, but as late as the tenth and last book we find him 
still in Antioch and with enough paraphernalia left to trans- 
form the countenance of Faustus. 
Date Yet this late and misarranged version on which Rufinus 

°^.^^^ , bases his text must have been already in existence for some 

original _ -^ 

version. time, since he confesses that he has been a long while about 
his translation. The virgin Sylvia who "once enjoined it 
upon" him to "render Clement into our language" is now 
spoken of as "of venerable memory," and it is to Bishop 
Gaudentius that Rufinus "after many delays" in his old age 
"at length" presents the work. We might thus infer that 
the original and presumably more self-consistent Pseudo- 
Clementine narrative, which Rufinus evidently does not use, 
must date back to a much earlier period. We hear from 
other sources of The Circuits or Periodoi of Peter by Clem- 
ent, but this may have been the version translated by Ru- 

MS is correctly described as three forms in Greek, and there are cer- 

books of The Recognitions and tainly other oriental compilations 

four books of The Homilies, and not yet brought into comparison 

that he thinks it may represent an with the Greek, Latin, and Syriac 

earlier form in the evolution than forms." 

either of them. He writes further, ^ In The Homilies it is a trip 

"I have a strong notion that a only from Alexandria to Caesarea 

study of Greek MSS of the Epi- that consumes this number of 

tomes will reveal still more variant days. 



finus.^ Conservative Christian scholars regard as the old- 
est unmistakable allusion to the Pseudo-Clementines that by 
Eusebius early in the fourth century, who, without giving 
any specific titles, speaks of certain "verbose and lengthy 
writings, containing dialogues of Peter forsooth and Apion," 
which are ascribed to Clement but are really of recent origin. 
As for the date of the original work from which Homilies 
and Recognitions are derived,^ from 200 to 280 A. D. is sug- 
gested by Harnack and his school, who take middle ground 
between the extreme contentions of Hilgenfeld and Chap- 
man. But the original Pseudo-Clement is supposed to have 
utilized The Teachings of Peter and The Acts of Peter, 
which Waitz would date between 135 and 210 A. D.^ 

The work itself, even in the perverted form preserved Internal 
by Rufinus, makes pretensions to the highest Christian an- 
tiquity. Not only is it addressed to James and put into 
the mouth of Clement, but Paul is never mentioned, and no 
book of the New Testament is cited by name, while sayings 
of Jesus are cited which are not found in the Bible. Christ 
is often alluded to in a veiled and mystic fashion as "the 
true prophet," who had appeared aforetime to Abraham and 
Moses, and interesting and vivid incidental glimpses are 
given of what purports to be the life of an early Christian 
community and perhaps is that of the Ebionites, Essenes, or 
some Gnostic sect. Emphasis is laid upon the purifying 
power of baptism, upon Peter's practice of bathing early 
every morning, preferably in the sea or running water, upon 
secret prayers and meetings, a separate table for the initi- 
ated, esoteric discussions of religion at cock-crow and in 
the night, and upon power over demons. All this may be 
mere clever invention, but there certainly is an atmosphere 
of verisimilitude about it; and it is rather odd that a later 

^ About 375 A.D. Epiphanius Gregory, cites a passage on as- 

(Dindorf, II, 107-9) describes The trology from the fourteenth book 

Circuits in such a way that he of The Circuits which is in the 

might have either The Homilies or tenth book of The Recognitions 

The Recognitions in mind. On the and not in The Homilies at all, 

other hand, the Philocalia, com- ^ Heintze (1914), p. 113. 

posed about 358 by BasU ^nd 'Waitz (1904), pp. 151 and 243. 



blances to 
and Phi- 

writer should be "very careful to avoid anachronisms," in 
whose account as it now stands are such glaring chronologi- 
cal confusions as those already noted concerning Clement's 
voyage to Caesarea and Simon's departure for Rome. But, 
as in the case of the New Testament Apocrypha, the exact 
date of composition makes little difference for our purpose, 
for which it is enough that the Pseudo-Clementines played 
an important part in the first thirteen centuries of Christian 
thought viewed as a whole. Eusebius and Epiphanius may 
find them unpalatable in certain respects and reject them as 
heretical, but Basil and Gregory utilize their arguments 
against astrology. Gelasius may classify them as apocry- 
phal, but Vincent of Beauvais justifies a discriminating use 
of the apocryphal books in general and cites this one in 
particular more than once as an authority, and the incidents 
of its story were embodied, as we shall see, in medieval art. 
The same resemblance to the works of Apuleius and 
Philostratus that we noted in the case of an apocryphal gos- 
pel is observable in the Pseudo-Clementines. We see in The 
Recognitions the same mixed interest in natural science and 
in magic combined with religion and romantic incident that 
characterized the variegated and motley page of the author 
of the Metamorphoses and the biographer of Apollonius of 
Tyana. It is probably only a coincidence that two of the 
works of Apuleius are dedicated to a Faustinus whom he 
calls "my son," while Clement's father is named Faustus or 
Faustinianus, and the legend of Faust is believed to orig- 
inate with him and the episodes in which he is concerned.-^ 
Less accidental may be the connection between Peter's re- 
ligious sea-bathing and that purification in the sea by which 
the hero of the Metamorphoses began the process by which 
he succeeded in regaining his lost human form. More con- 
siderable are the detailed parallels to the work of Philps- 
tratus.^ Peter corresponds roughly to Apollonius and Clem- 

* See E. C. Richardson in 
Papers of the American Society 
of Church History, VI (1894). 

' Neither Philostratus nor Apol- 
lonius of Tyana is mentioned, 
however, in the index of W, 


ent to Damis, while the wizards and magi are ably personi- 
fied by the famous Simon Magus. If Apollonius abstained 
from all meat and wine and wore linen garments, Peter lives 
upon "bread alone, with olives, and seldom even with pot- 
herbs; and my dress," he says, "is what you see, a tunic 
with a pallium : and having these, I require nothing more." ^ 
Like Philostratus the Pseudo-Clement speaks of bones of 
enormous size which are still to be seen as proof of the ex- 
istence of giants in former ages; ^ and the accounts of the 
Brahmans and allusions to the Scythians in the Life of 
Apollonius of Tyana are paralleled in The Recognitions by 
a series of brief chapters on these and other strange races.' 
Peter is, of course, a Jew, not a Hellene like Apollonius, but 
in his train are men who are thoroughly trained in Greek 
philosophy and capable of discussing its problems at length. 
They also are not without appreciation of pagan art and 
turn aside, with Peter's consent, to visit a temple upon an 
island and "to gaze earnestly" upon "the wonderful col- 
umns" and "very magnificent works of Phidias." ^ Just as 
Apollonius knew all languages without having ever studied 
them, so Peter is so filled with the Spirit of God that he is 
"full of all knowledge" and "not ignorant even of Greek 
learning" ; but to descend from his usual divine themes to 
discuss it is considered to be rather beneath him. Clement, 
however, felt the need of coaching Peter up a little in Greek 
mythology.^ This mingled attitude of contempt for "the 
babblings of the Greeks" when compared to divine revela- 
tion, and of respect for Greek philosophy when compared 
with anything else is, it is hardly necessary to say, a very- 
common one with Christian writers throughout the Rom^an 

The same attitude prevails toward natural science. At Science 
the very beginning of the Clementines the curiosity of the religion. 

Heintze's Dcr Klemensroman und in the corresponding chapter of 

seine griechischen Quellen (1914), The Homilies. VIII, 15. 

144 pp. ^ Recogs., IX, 19-29. 

^Recogs.,Vll,6. * Recogs., Yll, 12. 

^ Recogs., I, 29; not mentioned * Recogs., X, 15, et seq. 




in natural 

ancient world in regard to things of nature is shown by the 
question which someone propounded to Barnabas when he 
began to preach, at Rome according to The Recognitions, at 
Alexandria according to The Homilies, of the Son of God. 
The heckler wanted to know why so small a creature as a 
fly has not only six feet but wings in addition, while the 
elephant, despite its enormous bulk, has only four feet and 
no wings at all. Barnabas did not answer the question, al- 
though he asserted that he could if he wished to, making the 
excuse that it was not fitting to speak of mere creatures to 
those who were still ignorant of their Creator.^ 

This unwillingness to discuss natural questions by no 
means continues characteristic of the Clementines, however. 
Not only does Peter explain to Clement the creation of the 
world and propound the extraordinary ^ doctrine that after 
completing the process of creation God "set an angel as 
chief over the angels, a spirit over the spirits, a star over 
the stars, a demon over the demons, a bird over the birds, 
a beast over the beasts, a serpent over the serpents, a fish 
over the fishes," and "over men a man who is Christ Jesus. ^ 
Not only does he later in public defend baptism with water 
on the ground that "all things are produced from waters" 
and that waters were first created.* We also find Niceta 
accepting the Greek hypothesis of four elements, of the 
sphericity of the universe, and of the motions of the heav- 
enly bodies "assigned to them by fixed laws and periods," cit- 
ing Plato's Timaeus, mentioning Aristotle's introduction of 
a fifth element,^ disputing the atomic theory of Epicurus,^ 
and alluding to "mechanical science." "^ He further dis- 
cusses the generation of plants, animals, and human beings 
as evidences of divine design and providence,^ in which con- 
nection he collects a number of examples of marvelous gen- 

* Recogs., I, 8; Homilies, I, lo. 

' Extraordinary, of course, only 
in that single animals instead of 
angels, as in the Enoch literature, 
are set over birds, beasts, serpents, 

' Recogs., I, 27 and 45. 
* Recogs., VI, 8. 
'Recogs., VIII, 9, 20-22. 
^Recogs., VIII, 15-17. 
"Recogs., VIII, 21. 
"Recogs., VIII, 25-32. 


eration of animals such as moles from earth and vipers from 
ashes, and affirms that "the crow conceives through the 
mouth and the weasel generates through the ear." ^ Simon 
Magus declared himself immortal on the theory, which we 
shall find cropping out again in the thirteenth century in 
Roger Bacon and Peter of Abano, that his flesh was "so 
compacted by the power of his divinity that it can endure 
to eternity." ^ On the other hand, Niceta describes the ac- 
tion of the intestines in a fairly intelligent manner,^ and tells 
how the blood flows like water from a fountain, "and first 
borne along in one channel, and then spreading through in- 
numerable veins as through canals, irrigates the entire ter- 
ritory of the human body with vital streams." ■* A little 
later on Aquila gives a natural explanation of rainbows.^ 

There is noticeable, it is true, a tendency, common in God and 
patristic literature and found even among those fathers who "^^"'^^• 
hold the dualism of the Manichees in the deepest detesta- 
tion, to make a distinction between God and nature and to 
attribute any flaws in the universe to the latter.® Niceta 
cannot agree with "those who speak of nature instead of 
God and declare that all things were made by nature" ; he 
holds that God created the universe. But Aquila, who sup- 
ports his brother in the discussion, seems to think that God's 
responsibility for the universe ceased, at least in part, after 
it was once created. At any rate he admits that "in this 
world some things are done in an orderly and some in a dis- 
orderly fashion. Those things therefore," he continues, 
"that are done rationally, believe that they are done by Prov- 
idence ; but those that are done irrationally and inordinately, 
believe that they befall naturally and happen accidentally." ''' 

But even nature sometimes rises up against the sins of Sin and 
mankind according to Peter and his associates, Aquila be- 

^On the other hand, in the * Recogs.,ll, y. 

apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas, ' Recogs., VIII, 31. 

IX, 9, it is stated that the weasel * Recogs., VIII, 30. 

conceives with its mouth and '^ Recogs., VIII, 42. 

hence typifies persons with un- ' Recogs., VIII, 34, 

clean mouths. ' Recogs., VIII, 44. 


lieves that the sins of men are the cause of pestilences;^ 
that "when chastisement is inflicted upon men according to 
the will of God, he" (i. e. the Sun, already called "that good 
servant" and whom the early Christians found it difficult to 
cease to personify) "glows more fiercely and burns up the 
world with more vehement fires" ; ^ and that "those who 
have become acquainted with prophetic discourse know when 
and for what reason blight, hail, pestilence, and such like 
have occurred in every generation, and for what sins these 
have been sent as a punishment." ^ Peter gives the impres- 
sion that nature sometimes acts rather independently of God 
in thus punishing the wicked. He says : "But this also I 
would have you know, that upon such souls God does not 
take vengeance directly, but His whole creation rises up and 
inflicts punishments upon the impious. And although in the 
present world the goodness of God bestows the light of the 
world and the services of the earth alike upon the pious and 
the impious, yet not without grief does the Sun afford his 
light and the other elements perform their services to the 
impious. And, in short, sometimes even in opposition to 
the goodness of the Creator, the elements are worn out by 
the crimes of the wicked ; and hence it is that either the fruit 
of the earth is blighted, or the composition of the air is 
vitiated, or the heat of the sun is increased beyond measure, 
or there is an excess of rain or cold." * This is a close 
approach to the notion of The Book of Enoch that human 
sin upsets the world of nature, and an even closer approach 
to the theory of the Brahmans in The Life of Apollonius of 
Tyana that prolonged drought is a punishment visited by the 
world-soul upon human sinfulness. 
Attitude Such vestiges of the world-soul doctrine, such a tend- 

trology. ^^^y ^^ ascribe emotion and will to the elements and planets, 
to personify them, and to think of God as ruling the world 
indirectly through them, prepare us to find an attitude rather 
favorable to astrological theory. Indeed, in the first book 

^Recogs., VIII, 45. * Recogs., VIII, 47. 

'Recogs.. VIII, 46. * Recogs., V, 27, 


of The Recognitions ^ we are told in so many words that 
the Creator adorned the visible heaven with stars, sun, and 
moon in order that "they might be for an indication of 
things past, present, and future," and that these celestial 
signs, while seen by all, are "understood only by the learned 
and intelligent." Astrology is respectfully described as 
"the science of mathesis," ^ and, as was common in the 
Roman Empire, astrologers are called mathematici.^ A de- 
fender even of the most extreme pretensions of the art is 
not abused as a charlatan but is courteously greeted as "so 
learned a man," * and all admire his eloquence, grave man- 
ners, and calm speech, and accord him a respectful hearing.^ 
Astrology, far from being regarded as necessarily contrary 
to religion, is thought to furnish arguments for the exist- 
ence of God, and it is said that Abraham, "being an astrolo- 
ger, was able from the rational system of the stars to recog- 
nize the Creator, while all other men were in error, and 
understood that all things are regulated by His Provi- 
dence."'® The number seven is somewhat emphasized '^ and 
the twelve apostles are called the twelve months of Christ 
who is the acceptable year of the Lord.^ Somewhat simi- 
larly the Gnostic followers of the heretic Valentinus made 
much of the Duodecad, a group of twelve aeons, and be- 
lieved, according to Irenaeus, "that Christ suffered in the 
twelfth month. For their opinion is that He continued to 
preach for one year only after His baptism." ^ Peter, too, 
has a group of twelve disciples. ^*^ Niceta speaks of "man 
who is a microcosm in the great world." ^^ It is admitted 
that the stars exert evil as well as good influence,^ ^ and that 
the astrologer "can indicate the evil desire which malign 

^ Recogs., I, 28. ' Recogs., I, 32. 

' Recogs., VIII, 57, "f rater meus ^Recogs., I, 21, 43, 72. 

Clemens tibi diligentius responde- 'Recogs., IV, 35. 

bit qui plenius scientiam mathesis " Irenaeus, I, 3. 

attigit; IX, 18, "quoniam quidem ^'' Recogs., Ill, 68. 

scientia mihi mathesis nota est." ^Recogs., VIII, 28, "qui eat 

'Recogs., X, 11-12. parvus in aHo mundus." 

-Recogs., IX, 18. "Recogs., VIII, 45. 

'Recogs., VIII, 2. 


virtue produces." -^ But it is contended that, "possessing 
freedom of the will, we sometimes resist our desires and 
sometimes yield to them," and that no astrologer can pre- 
dict beforehand which course we will take. 
Argu- In fine, astrology is criticized adversely only when it 

against &o^s to the length of contending that "there is neither any 
genethli- God, nor any worship, neither is there any Providence in the 
world, but all things are done by fortuitous chance and 
genesis"; that "whatever your genesis contains, that shall 
befall you" ; ^ and that the constellations force men to commit 
murder, adultery, and other crimes.^ On this point Niceta 
and Aquila, and finally Clement himself, have long discus- 
sions with an aged adept in genethlialogy which fill a large 
portion of the last three books of The Recognitions, and 
include a dozen chapters which are little more than an ex- 
tract from The Laws of Countries of Bardesanes. Divine 
Providence and human free will are defended, and 
genethlialogy is represented as an error which has received 
confirmation through the operations of demons.^ It is 
asserted that men can be kept from committing crimes by 
fear of punishment and by law, even if they are naturally 
so inclined, and races like the Seres (Chinese) and 
Brahmans are adduced as examples of entire races of men 
who never commit the crimes into which men are supposed 
to be forced by the constellations. The argument is also 
advanced, "Since God is righteous and since He Himself 
made human nature, how could it be that He should place 
genesis in opposition to us, which should compel us to sin, 
and then that He should punish us when we do sin ?" ^ It is 
further charged that the constellations are so complicated, 

^ Recogs., X, 12. In Homilies, Homilies, however, Peter argues 

XIV, 5, the existence of astrologi- that, even if Genesis prevails, 

cal medicine is implied wlien which he does not admit, still he 

Peter promises to cure by prayer can "worship Him who is also 

to God any bodily ill, even "if it is Lord of the stars," and that the 

utterly incurable and entirely be- doctrine of genesis is far more 

yond the range of the medical destructive to polytheism and 

profession — a case, indeed, which pagan worship, 

not even the astrologers profess to " Recogs., IX, 16-17. 

cure." * Recogs., IX, 6 and 12. 

'Recogs., VIII, 2. In The " Recogs., IX, 30. 


that for any given moment one astrologer may infer a favor- 
able and another a disastrous influence/ and that most suc- 
cessful explanations of the effects of the stars are made 
after the event, like dreams of which men can make nothing 
at the time, but "when any event occurs, then they adapt 
what they saw in the dream to what has occurred." ^ Finally 
the aged defender of genesis, who believed that his own 
fate and that of his wife had been accurately prescribed 
by their horoscopes, turns out to be Faustinianus (called 
Faustus in The Homilies) , the long-lost father of Clement, 
Niceta, and Aquila; is also restored to his wife; and learns 
that his previous interpretation of events from the stars was 
quite erroneous.^ 

The ideal picture of the Seres or Chinese, "who dwell The 
at the beginning of the world," which The Recognitions Seres, 
apparently borrows from Bardesanes, is perhaps worth re- 
peating here as an odd admission that a non-Christian peo- 
ple can attain a state of moral perfection and sinlessness, 
as well as an interesting bit of ancient ethnology. "In all 
that country which is very large there is neither temple nor 
image nor harlot nor adulteress, nor is any thief brought to 
trial. But neither is any man ever slain there. . . . For 
this reason they are not chastened with those plagues of 
which we have spoken; they live to extreme old age, and 
die without sickness." ^ Perhaps these virtuous Seres are 
the blameless Hyperboreans in another guise. 

Demons and angels abound in The Recognitions. One Theory of 
may be rebuked and scourged at night by an angel of God.^ 
Peter says that every nation has an angel, since God has 
divided the earth into seventy-two sections and appointed 
an angel as governor and prince of each.^ Once, before be- 
ginning to preach, Peter expelled demons from a number of 
persons in the audience.''' In another passage is described 
the cure of a girl of twenty-seven who for twenty years 

^ Recogs., X, 11. ' Recogs., X, 66. 

'Recogs., X, 12. ' Recogs., II, 42. 

' Recogs.j IX, 32-7. ^ Recogs., IV, 7. 

*Recogs., IX, 19, and VIII, 48. 


had been vexed by an unclean spirit and had been shut up 
in a closet in chains because of her violence and superhuman 
strength. The mere presence of Peter put this demon to 
rout and the chains fell off the girl of their own accord.^ 
Besides these personal encounters with demons, the theory 
of demoniacal possession is discussed more than once, and 
anything of which the author does not approve, such as the 
art of horoscopes, heathen oracles, the excesses of pagan 
rites and festivals, and the animal gods of the Egyptians, 
is attributed to the influence of demons.^ One becomes sus- 
ceptible to demoniacal possession who eats meat sacrificed 
to idols or who merely eats and drinks immoderately.^ 
Demons are apt to get into the very bowels of those who 
frequent drunken banquets.^ Incontinence, too, is accom- 
panied by demons whose "noxious breath" produces *'an 
intemperate and vicious progeny. , . . And therefore par- 
ents are responsible for their children's defects of this sort, 
because they have not observed the law of intercourse." '^ 
As much care should be taken in human generation as in the 
sowing of crops. But while demons abound, God has given 
every Christian power over them, since they may be driven 
out by uttering "the threefold name of blessedness." ^ More- 
over, "what is spoken by the true God, whether by prophets 
or varied visions, is always true; but what is foretold by 
demons is not always true." "^ 
Origin of With demons is associated the origin of the magic art. 

"Certain angels .. . . taught men that demons could be made 
to obey man by certain arts, that is, by magical invoca- 
tions." ^ The first magicians were Ham and his son Mes- 
raim, from whom the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Assyrians 
are descended, and who tried to draw sparks from the stars ® 
but set himself on fire "and was consumed by the demon 

* Recogs., IX, 38. ' Recogs., IV, 21. 
*Recogs., IX, 6 and 12; IV, 21; "Recogs.. IV, 26. 

V, 20 and 31. ' "Reminding one of Benjamin 

'Recogs., II, 71; IV, 16. Franklin's more successful at- 

* Recogs., IV, 30. tempt to "snatch the thunderbolt 
'^Recogs., IX, 9. from heaven." 

* Recogs., IV, 32-33. 

I nagic. 


whom he had accosted with too great importunity." ^ But 
on this account he was called Zoroaster or "living star" 
after his death. Moreover, the magic art did not perish 
but was transmitted to Nimrod "as by a flash." ^ With this 
may be compared the slightly different account of the origin 
of magic given by Epiphanius in the Panarion, written about 
374-375 A. D. Magic is older than heresy and was already 
in existence before the time of Ham or Mesraim in the 
antediluvian days of Jared, when it coexisted with "phar- 
macy," a term here used to cover sorcery and poisoning-, 
licentiousness, adultery, and injustice. After the flood 
Epiphanius mentions Nimrod (NejSpcbS) as the first tyrant 
and the inventor of the evil disciplines of astrology and 
magic. He states that the Greeks incorrectly confuse him 
with Zoroaster whom they regard as the founder of magic 
and astrology. According to Epiphanius, "pharmacy" and 
magic passed from Egypt to Greece in the time of Cecrops.^ 

In The Recognitions everyone. Christian, heretic, pagan. Frequent 
and philosopher, condemns or professes to condemn magic, accusa- 
and reference is made to the laws of the Roman emperors magic, 
against it.* But Christians, pagans, and heretics, while 
claiming divine power and protection for themselves, freely 
accuse one another of the practice of magic. An unnamed 
person, by whom Paul is perhaps meant, stirs up the people 
of Jerusalem to persecute the apostolic community there as 
"most miserable men, who are deceived by Simon, a 
magician." ^ The guards at the sepulcher, unable to pre- 
vent the resurrection, said that Jesus was a magician, a 
charge which is repeated by one of the scribes and by Simon 
Magus. Simon also calls Peter a magician on more than 
one occasion.® Peter, of course, makes similar charges 
against Simon; he had been especially sent by James to 
Caesarea in order to refute this magician who was giving 
himself out to be the Stans or Christ.'^ The gods of Greek 

^Recogs., IV, 2y, and I, 30. 
*Recogs., IV, 29. 
•Dindorf, I, 282, 286-7. 
*Recogs., X. 55; III, 64. 

' Rccogs., I, 70. 

'Recogs., I, 42 and 58; III, 12, 
47, and 73 ; X, 54. 
' Recogs., I, 72. 


mythology, too, are accused of having resorted to magic 
transformations and sorcery,^ Philosophy, however, es- 
capes the accusation of magic in The Recognitions,^ and it 
was a philosopher who deterred Clement, before the latter 
liad become a Christian, from his plan of investigating the 
problem of the immortality of the soul by hiring an Egyp- 
tian magician to evoke a soul from the infernal regions by 
the art of necromancy.^ The philosopher condemned such 
an attempt as unlawful, impious, and "hateful to the 
Divinity." * 
Marvels But while magic is condemned, its great powers are ad- 

of magic, mitted. Simon Magus makes great boasts of the marvels 
which he can perform. These include becoming invisible, 
boring through rocks and mountains as if they were clay, 
passing through fire without being burned, flying through 
the air, loosing bonds and barriers, transformation into ani- 
mal shapes, animation of statues, production of new plants 
or trees in a moment, and growing beards upon little boys.^ 
He also asserted that he had formed a boy by turning air 
into water and the water into blood, and then solidifying 
this into flesh, a feat which he regarded as superior to the 
creation of Adam from earth. Later Simon unmade him 
and restored him to the air, "but not until I had placed his 
image and picture in my bedchamber as a proof and me- 
morial of my work.^ Not only does Simon himself make 
such boasts ; Niceta and Aquila, who had been his disciples 
before their conversion by Zaccheus, also bear witness to 

^ Recogs., X, 22 and 25. sias. 

' But by no means always in Necromancy is given as a proof 

early Christian writings : thus of the immortality of the soul in 

Clement of Alexandria (ciso- Justin's First Apology, cap. 18, 

C220) in the Stromata, II, i, as- where we read, "For let even 

serts that the Greeks eulogize necromancy, and the divinations 

"astrology and mathematics and you practise by means of immacu- 

magic and sorcery" as the highest late children, and the evoking of 

sciences. departed human souls ... let 

* In contrast to Lucian's Menip- these persuade you that even after 
pus or Necromancy, in which the death souls are in a state of sen- 
Cynic philosopher Menippus re- sation." 
sorts to a Magus at Babylon in * Recogs., I, 5. 
order to gain entrance to the ^Recogs., II, 9. 
lower world and question Teire- ° Recogs., II, 15. 


his amazing feats. "Who would not be astonished at the 
wonderful things which he does? Who would not think 
that he was a god come down from heaven for the salvation 
of men?" ^ He can fly through the air, or so mingle him- 
self with fire as to become one body with it, he can make 
statues walk and dogs of brass bark. "Yea, he has also 
been seen to make bread of stones," ^ When Dositheus tried 
to beat Simon, the rod passed through his body as if it had 
been smoke.^ The woman called Luna who goes about with 
Simon was seen by a crowd to look out of all the windows 
of a tower at the same time,"* an illusion possibly produced 
by mirrors. When Simon fears arrest, he transforms the 
face of Faustinianus into the likeness of his own, in order 
that Faustinianus may be arrested in his place. ^ 

So great, indeed, are the marvels wrought by Simon How dis- 
and by magicians generally that Niceta asks Peter how they rniracie 

may be distinguished from divine signs and Christian ^'"o"? ., 
. . . magic ? 

miracles, and in what respect anyone sins who infers from 

the similarity of these signs and wonders either that Simon 
Magus is divine or that Christ was a magician. Speaking 
first of Pharaoh's magicians, Niceta asks, "For if I had 
been there, should I not have thought, from the fact that 
the magicians did like things (to those which Moses did), 
either that Moses was a magician, or that the feats dis- 
played by the magicians were divinely wrought? . . . But 
if he sins who believes those who work signs, how shall it 
appear that he also does not sin who has believed on our 
Lord for His signs and occult virtues?" Peter's reply is 
that Simon's magic does not benefit anyone, while the Chris- 
tian miracles of healing the sick and expelling demons are 
performed for the good of humanity. To Antichrist alone 
among workers of magic will it be permitted at the end of 
the world to mix in some beneficial acts with his evil marvels. 
Moreover, "by this means going beyond his bounds, and 

^ Recogs., II, 6. * Recogs., II, 12. 

'^ Recogs., Ill, 57, "Recogs., X, 53, et seq. 

^Recogs., II, 11. 


being divided against himself, and fighting against himself, 
he shall be destroyed." ^ Later in The Recognitions, how- 
ever, Aquila states that even the magic of the present has 
found ways of imitating by contraries the expulsion of 
demons by the word of God, that it can counteract the 
poisons of serpents by incantations, and can effect cures 
"contrary to the word and power of God." He adds, "The 
magic art has also discovered ministries contrary to the 
angels of God, placing the evocation of souls and the fig- 
ments of demons in opposition to these." - 
Deceit in But while the marvels of magic are admitted, there is a 

magic. feeling that there is something deceitful and unreal about 

them. The teachings of the true prophet, we are told, "con- 
tain nothing subtle, nothing composed by magic art to de- 
ceive," ^ while Simon is "a deceiver and magician." "* Nor 
is he deceitful merely in his religious teaching and his op- 
position to Peter; even his boasts of magic power are partly 
false. Aquila, his former disciple, says, "But when he spoke 
thus of the production of sprouts and the perforation of the 
mountain, I was confounded on this account, because he 
wished to deceive even us, in whom he seemed to place con- 
fidence; for we knew that those things had been from the 
days of our fathers, which he represented as having been 
done by himself lately." ^ Moreover, not only does Simon 
deceive others; he is himself deceived by demons as Peter 
twice asserts : ^ "He is deluded by demons, yet he thinks 
that he sees the very substance of the soul." "Although in 
this he is deluded by demons, yet he has persuaded himself 
that he has the soul of a murdered boy ministering to him 
in whatever he pleases to employ it." 

This story of having sacrificed a pure boy for purposes 
of magic or divination was a stock charge, which we 
have previously heard made against Apollonius of Tyana 
and which was also told of the early Christians by their 

^Recogs., Ill, 57-60; X, 66. *Recogs., II, 5. 

'Recogs., VIII, 53. ' Recogs., II, 10. 

'Recogs., VIII, 60. 'Recogs., II, 16, and III, 49. 


pagan enemies and of the Jews and heretics in the middle 
ages. Simon is said to have confessed to Niceta and Aquila, 
when they asked how he worked his magic, that he received 
assistance from "the soul of a boy, unsullied and violently 
slain, and invoked by unutterable adjurations." He went 
on to explain that "the soul of man holds the next place after 
God, when once it is set free from the darkness of the body. 
And immediately it acquires prescience, wherefore it is in- 
voked in necromancy." When Aquila asked why the soul 
did not take vengeance upon its slayer instead of perform- 
ing the behests of magicians, Simon answered that the soul 
now had the last judgment too vividly before it to indulge 
in vengeance, and that the angels presiding over -such souls 
do not permit them to return to earth unless "adjured by 
someone greater than themselves." ^ Niceta then indig- 
nantly interposed, "And do you not fear the day of judg- 
ment, who do violence to angels and invoke souls?" As a 
matter of fact, the charge that Simon had murdered or vio- 
lently slain a boy is rather overdrawn, since the boy in ques- 
tion was the one whom he had made from air in the first 
place and whom he simply turned back into air again, claim- 
ing, however, to have thereby produced an unsullied human 
soul. According to The HonCilies, however, he presently 
confided to Niceta and Aquila that the human soul did not 
survive the death of the body and that a demon really 
responded to his invocations.^ 

Nevertheless, the charge of murder thus made against Magic is 
Simon illustrates the criminal character here as usually as- ^^*'- 
scribed to magic. Simon is said to be "wicked above meas- 
ure," and to depend upon "magic arts and wicked devices," 
and Peter accuses him of "acting by nefarious arts." ^ 

^ Similarly, in a passage con- names of superior angels, who in 

tained only in The Homilies, V, their turn may be adjured by the 

5, Appion, recommending to Clem- name of God. 

ent a love incantation which he * Concerning this boy see 

had learned from an Egyptian Recogs., II, 13-15; III, 44-45; 

who was well versed in magic, Homilies, II, 25-30. 

explains that demons obey the ^Recogs., II, 6; III, 13. 
magician when invoked by the 


Simon in his turn calls Peter "a magician, a godless man, 
injurious, cunning, ignorant, and professing impossibili- 
ties," and again "a magician, a sorcerer, a murderer." ^ 
Magic is A further characteristic of magic which comes out 

an art. clearly in The Recognitions is that it is an art. Demons 
and souls of the dead may have a great deal to do with it, 
but it also requires a human operator and makes use of 
materials drawn from the world of nature. It was by 
anointing his face with an ointment which the magician had 
compounded that the countenance of Faustinianus was 
transformed into the likeness of Simon, while Appion and 
Anubion, who anointed their faces with the juice of a cer- 
tain herb, were thereby enabled still to recognize Faus- 
tinianus as himself.^ In another passage one of Simon's 
disciples who has deserted him and come to Peter tells how 
Simon had made him carry on his back to the seashore a 
bundle "of his polluted and accursed secret things." Simon 
took the bundle out to sea in a boat and later returned 
without it.^ Simon not only employed natural materials 
in his magic, but was regarded as a learned man, even by 
his enemies. He is "by profession a magician, yet exceed- 
ingly well trained in Greek literature." * He is "a most 
vehement orator, trained in the dialectic art, and in the 
meshes of syllogisms ; and what is most serious of all, he 
is greatly skilled in the magic art." ^ And he engages with 
Peter in theological debates. It is also interesting to note 
as an illustration of the connection between magic and 
experimental scie